Part 3: Countdown to the Olympics


We're only days away from this year's Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, scheduled to begin on Friday, July 23, 2021. You might be wondering just what Olympians LTJG Nikole 'Nikki' Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss are doing and thinking right about now. The truth is, we were so curious, we asked them! What we found out may surprise you.

We talked with Nikki first. She told us that she and Lara are doing their most important work during this time. In addition to training on the water a couple of days a week, they're also resting.  

Nikki explained, "The resting period is the most important part because it allows us to process the information we have learned. It's a time to fix any injuries or strains on the body, and take the time to reset." She also gave us a valuable piece of advice that's not only good for Olympians, but for all of us. "Our culture today praises overworking and burnout. Don't get me wrong; we work harder than any team out there, always will. We also work hard to recover our minds, bodies, and souls so that we are present in the best form for the Olympics. So much goes on behind the scenes to prepare." For instance, Nikki and Lara will be working with their physical trainers, nutritionists, mental coaches, and sailing coaches. Everything is well thought out, and there's a reason for everything they do. Nikki explained, "We will be sailing in Miami for a few days before leaving so that we can connect with our home waters and get some time in the boat before arriving in Japan."

Nikki Barnes - Lara Dallman-Weiss - 2021 Olympics
Courtesy of Allison Chenard

When we spoke with Lara, it was clear the two Olympians are in sync cynic. She told us, "The weeks before leaving for Japan are very exciting, especially as we connect with fellow Team USA athletes and start to get our team swag." As Nikki mentioned, it's important to prioritize the health of the mind and body. "For me, this means to surround myself with friends and family (mostly virtual), and keep things as normal as possible." Lara gave us a peek into just a small part of the highly complex logistics required to be ready for the day of the competition. "I have been ordering all of the hydration, snacks, and supplements for Japan, and talking to my sports psychologist and nutritionist weekly, and sometimes daily!" She added, "The other major factor for us is heat acclimation."

"Living in Miami allows us to get a good rest in our own beds, while still getting used to the heat and humidity we expect to see in Japan. I have a few fun bike rides planned and am working with an expert remote coach to get my body comfortable in high temperatures." When Lara refers to preparing their bodies for the Tokyo climate, she knows what she's talking about. Tokyo in July is typically very warm and sticky, with an average high up around 85 degrees. Lara shared another component, that she considers probably most important: "Since we are a team of two on the boat, three with our coach, we want to stay connected and supportive of one another. Calls, texts, and team dinners are something we prioritize!"

The Oxford Dictionary defines an Olympian as not only a competitor in the Olympic Games, but also as a person of great attainments or exalted position. There are many facets to those men and women who pull out all the stops to earn the title, Olympian.

We clearly see these traits in Nikki and Lara. We can also look at studies. Beg the question, what other traits do all Olympic athletes seem to have in common? Or put another way, what do they have that we don't? The studies show us several things. No matter what the sport, all Olympians have unyielding focus, commitment, and passion for what they do. They also exhibit an innate curiosity about just how far they can take their skills. Finally, they are so in tune with their bodies that they feel as if they leave them in pursuit of getting to that next level. It's often described as a flow that they get into where everything else falls away.

Sailing USA boat - Nikki Barnes - Lara Dallman-Weiss
Final day of training in Santander, Spain. Nikki and Lara on the boat with the sail they will be using in the Olympics. Coach Robby Bisi in the coach boat. Photo Credit: Rachel Drake

We may not all have what it takes to be Olympic athletes, but we can certainly share in the excitement with Nikki and Lara. And, now we know exactly how the last few days before the Olympic games are unfolding for them: practice, rest, mental and physical preparation, and bonding.

We have no doubt that Nikki and Lara are prepared to sail into history, but they can't do it alone. If you would like to help them achieve their dream of winning a medal for the United States by defraying some of the costs of training and competing, donate to the USCGA Alumni Association website. You can also continue to follow Nikki and Lara's story by visiting their team website, where you can stay up-to-date with team news, their blog, photos, and videos, sign up for their newsletter, and even forward messages of encouragement. Thanks for being part of the team!

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