A hop, skip, and a jump. An exceptional ability to do those three things in rapid succession, and over large distances, has made Samyr Laine ’06 an elite athlete. It made Laine an All-American in the triple jump in 2005, and it compelled him to defer a number of job offers from elite law firms after earning his J.D. from Georgetown.
Six years after graduating, it has landed Laine a spot in this summer’s Olympic Games. But despite his atheltics accomplishments heading into London, it is his story that makes him one of the media darlings of the upcoming Olympics.
Laine, born and raised in New York, will be representing his parents’ home nation of Haiti, and has a chance to unify a country torn apart by the devastating 2010 earthquake and the opportunity to earn the nation's first individual medal since Silvio Cator took a silver in the 1928 Amsterdam Games.
Laine has also garnered national headlines because of the man with whom he shared his Straus D-11 suite back in 2002 and 2003. Mark E. Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook—Laine was user number 14 on the site—lived with the Olympic athlete during their freshman year.
But Laine’s story, both at Harvard and elsewhere, is compelling beyond the confines of that fateful dorm room.
Laine, who eventually served as the co-captain of the Crimson track and field team, did not make his high school roster as a freshman at Newburgh Academy. Competing as a middle-distance runner in 7th and 8th grade, he was cut in 1998, prompting a switch to tennis.
But Michael Johnson’s performance in the 200 and 400 meters at the 2000 Sydney Olympics inspired Laine to return to the track, this time as a jumper.
“Seeing Michael Johnson doing his thing really got me back into it,” Laine said. “Since then, it’s just been hard work. I don’t want to give it up; it’s the general pursuit of excellence.”
The return proved successful. Laine became an elite high-school athlete and was recruited by a number of colleges, choosing Harvard and matriculating in the fall of 2002.
THE “THREE STOOGES”
Once with the Crimson, Laine began a collegiate career that saw him set indoor and outdoor triple jump school records.
His fellow jumpers in the class of 2006, after finishing their careers at Harvard, remain life-long friends.
“We referred to ourselves as the ‘Triumvirate’ and the ‘Three Stooges,’” said Travis Hughes ’06, a former long and triple-jumper who is now a Houston-based attorney. “Sam, Lawrence [Adjah ’06], and I became very close, which makes sense considering the fact that we ran, worked out, and jumped together every day for eight months out of the year for four years.”
Adjah and Laine were co-captains their senior year, and after graduation, both went to the University of Texas to compete as graduate students, with Laine receiving a degree in kinesiology-sports management.