Everyone has heard the stories of a young Mark Zuckerberg burning the candle at both ends while at Harvard University, laying the groundwork for what would become the largest social network in the world. Apparently, he wasn’t the only student in Straus Hall’s Room D11 with lofty goals. One of his roommates freshman year was, Samyr Laine, who will be representing his parents’ native land Haiti at the London Olympics. Laine will compete in the triple jump at the games, and then head to New York for a job at a prestigious law firm that he’s been putting off for years in order to follow his heart, and hopefully earn a gold medal.
Laine was recently interviewed, looking back at the good time he, Zuckerberg and the two other talented Freshman roommates had that year. He remembers playing too much PlayStation and having too little sleep, although he was quick to point out that Zuckerberg slept the least. The 27-year-old athlete holds records at Harvard for the indoor and outdoor triple jump. He graduated in 2006, spent a year in athletics at the University of Texas, and earned a master’s in sports management and kinesiology. He previously competed in the Pan American Games, attended Georgetown Law and passed the bar exam, all while maintaining the sort of training regimen that most people couldn’t even fathom. Now he’s headed to London as part of the Haitian Olympic Team. The small, impoverished country is still reeling from the massive 2010 earthquake that turned the world’s attention on the island country. The United States has sent more than $2 billion dollars in aid to Haiti, where 300,000 people were killed and tens of thousands more injured.
Laine’s other college roommates remember him fondly, as a calm, focused and driven student athlete. Laine and Zuckerberg both hail from a suburb of New York City. They shared a double room in the Harvard dorm, and the connected double housed Bede Moore, an Australian rower, and Justin Coffin, a musician. Moore, an internet entrepreneur living in Jakarta, remembers how different they were, but how well each individual complimented the others. Although Zuckerberg hasn’t issued a formal statement about his former roommate, Laine was certainly an early supporter. Once Facebook launched, during their sophomore year of college, he was the 14th person to join.
The two students may have come from a similar place, but their lives couldn’t be much different. Zuckerberg dominated his computer science classes, and could hack into his roommates’ computers with ease. Laine spent most of his time in the gym. Zuckerberg has a net worth of around $16 billion, while Laine relies on assistance from his parents, a modest Olympic stipend (given to athletes competing for impoverished countries) and free pizza from a supportive local restaurant to make it through the month. His coach, a former Olympic long jumper and minor league baseball player named Skeeter Jackson, has never asked for payment even after five years of training together, which is probably the only reason Laine can use him. But Laine chose to compete for Haiti not because of the stipend, but for the good he could do for the country as a medalist. Anyone can get a social work degree online, but an Olympic medal for Haiti is something that doesn’t happen that often. Laine hopes to ask Facebook to someday support his Jump for Haiti foundation, a new initiative he hopes will help foster sports programs all across the country.