While most 16-year-olds these days are watching their weight, St. John sailing sensation Mayumi “Mimi” Roller is trying to add a few pounds to her slight frame in preparation for the Women’s Radial World Championships next month.
Already one of the top youth laser sailors in the world, Roller is vying for a spot to go head to head against the globe’s best skippers on the sporting world’s biggest stage — the Olympics.
A high-ranking finish at the women’s laser championships in Auckland, New Zealand, in March will qualify the Antilles School senior for this summer’s Beijing 2008 Olympic Games from August 8 through 24.
But as the petite sailor excels in light air, the expected heavy winds down under will not make for Roller’s best sailing conditions.
Best in Light Wind
“I’ve heard it’s really windy down there and that is not my ideal condition to race in,” Roller said. “I’m best in light wind. I’m trying to gain a bit of weight.”
“Wind is the biggest factor that I’m worried about,” continued Roller. “I’m trying to bulk up in the gym. I’m feeling a lot of pressure because I only have one month left to gain 20 pounds.”
And if that isn’t hard enough, Roller will try to lose those extra 20 pounds before competition gets under way in Beijing, where the air is more suited to her small frame.
“China would have ideal conditions for me because the wind is light and shifty there,” she said. “I could do really well in that air.”
Before heading down to Auckland, Roller will get a chance to practice in heavy air at the usually blustery Laser Midwinters East in Clearwater, Florida, at the end of February.
Right after the Florida regatta Roller, accompanied by her father Hugo Roller and coach Brett Davis, will head down to New Zealand, where she’ll arrive a few weeks before the race on March 4.
“The Women’s World Championships are from March 13 through 20, but I’m arriving early in order to practice with my coach,” Roller said. “I want to get a feel for the wind and the conditions since I’ve never been there.”Eight Spots Left
In order to qualify for the Beijing games in August, Roller will have to finish with a fast enough time to take one of the remaining eight spots left for the competition.
But she won’t know exactly what qualifying time she will need to capture one of those eight places until the regatta gets under way.
“There are eight positions left to qualify for laser radials for the whole world and I want one of them,” said the young sailor. “A whole bunch of countries have already qualified. I need to be among the next eight countries placing.”
All Roller can do in the meantime is prepare.
“Last week I was sailing 420s with the Antilles team, but I have to crank down now and really concentrate on the laser radials,” said Roller. “I’ve been going to the gym at least once a week and usually more and trying to practice as much as I can. I practice everyday after school.”
“I usually practice with my brother or other Antilles students so I can speed test against someone else,” she continued. “I always try to make sure I do something active everyday so I can gain muscle.”
Even if Roller doesn’t qualify for Beijing games at the women’s world championships, the V.I. Sailing Association has requested a wild card status for the laser racer.
“The V.I. Sailing Association is still waiting to hear about the wild card status,” said Roller. “If I get it, then I’ll have an extra spot after the eight are filled. Wild cards are given to smaller countries who aren’t well represented in the Olympics, so I do have a chance.”
No matter what happens at the women’s world championships, Roller will also compete in the Youth Radial World Championships, which will take place in Auckland following the women’s contest.
“I am going to be down there anyway, so I’ll sail in the youth worlds too,” the young sailor said. “I’ll fly back on March 31.”
Bringing Her Textbooks
All that time away from school during the winter of her senior year means even more hard work for the Antilles student.
“It’s a bit hard with school,” said Roller. “I haven’t missed that much yet but the month will be tough. I’m bringing all my books.”
While school isn’t a problem for Roller — she’s waiting to hear from Yale, Stanford and Harvard’s admissions offices — she did foresee some difficulty in one course.
“I’m taking advanced placement calculus right now which will be the most difficult to catch up on,” she said. “That is a class where you really have to be in class and you can’t just read it in the book. But I’ll do my best.”
Roller takes that attitude about most endeavors in her life, and it’s gotten her far. With so much poise and determination, it’s almost easy to forget that she’ll turn only 17 in New Zealand. That is until the subject of shopping down under comes up.
“I’m also looking forward to getting to Auckland early so I can fit in some shopping and sightseeing,” said Roller.
Thankfully she is really just a teenager — albeit one with exceptional sailing abilities.
Financial Support Appreciated
Roller still needs financial support in her bid to represent the Virgin Islands in Beijing in August. She’s the youngest V.I. Olympic hopeful and, if she qualifies, will be the first women’s laser radial competitor from the territory.
The regatta participation necessary to keep her competitive, not to mention travel, coach and accommodation costs, add up quickly.
For more information about making a tax deductible donation to help send Roller to Beijing, email the sailor at firstname.lastname@example.org.