When Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard, he shared his Room D11 in Straus Hall with a guy named Samyr Laine. Now Laine will be competing in the triple jump at the London Olympics for Haiti, which is the country of his parents’ birth. After that he will be joining a New York law firm that he deferred twice to stay in training. ?We had a good time our freshman year in Straus, we played a ton of PlayStation,? said Laine in an interview with Bloomberg. ?We probably didn?t sleep nearly as much as we should have. None of us slept as little as Mark did, and now you can see why.?
Twenty-seven-year-old Laine has records at Harvard for the triple jump, indoors and outdoors, 51 feet and 11 1/4 inches (indoors) and 53 feet and 7 1/2 inches (outdoors). The world’s outdoor record is at 60 feet and 1/4th inch by Britain?s Jonathan Edwards in 1995. After graduating from Harvard in 2006, Laine competed at the University of Texas for a year while studying for a master’s degree in kinesiology and sports management.
In the same July, Laine competed at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. After that was done, he started studying at Georgetown Law School for three years while intensely working out once per week with an unpaid coach that used to play minor league baseball. He spent one summer as an associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP. Then he passed the bar before deferring a law career to focus on competitively jumping.
Zuckerberg and Laine were both from the suburbs north of New York City and they shared one of the doubles in Room D11. The other double was shared by Australian rower Bede Moore and musician Justin Coffin. ?We were all very different,? said Moore. Moore lives in Jakarta and co-founded an e-commerce website called Lazada Indonesia after he left Boston Consulting Group Inc.
?Sam and I were both athletes, but he came from New York whereas I was fresh from overseas,? said Moore. ?Justin was musically very gifted. Mark was obviously on the computer. But even despite the differences, the room worked brilliantly together.? When Zuckerberg and Laine were sophomores, Laine became the 14th person to sign up for Facebook after Zuckerberg sent him a message.
Laine remembered one incident where Zuckerberg overslept and ran out of the dorm room. He missed the first hour of a computer science final exam, but he ended up getting the highest mark in the class anyway. ?The mastery he had of computer science, even as a freshman, it was almost comical,? said Laine. ?We would often try to see how fast he could hack into our computers.?
Skeeter Jackson is a former Olympic long jumper that was a minor-league center fielder for the MLB Baltimore Orioles. Laine has been unable to pay Jackson, but many people have suggested that he asks Zuckerberg for money.
?Everybody asks that: Why don?t you just ask Mark for money?? said Laine. ?Our friendship isn?t based on him being Mark Zuckerberg, Time Person of the Year. It?s based on us being a couple of 17-year-old kids who happened to be thrown into a room together. I haven?t asked any of my friends. So for him it wouldn?t be any different, because he is my friend.?
The last time he spoke with Zuckerberg was this past June and they get in touch every couple of months. The International Olympic Committee gives a $1,250 monthly stipend to athletes that compete for impoverished nations. He also has a sponsorship deal with Mizuno Corporation, which provides him with clothing, spikes, and cash. Laine receives money from the U.S. Athletic Trust, which is a non-profit organization that is based in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
Laine has a sponsorship with the Zpizza chain, which allows him to get free food from the restaurants. Laine eats pizza and salads from there about 3-4 times per week. ?Some months here it?s touch and go, my landlord will tell you that,? added Laine, ?but it comes with the territory of chasing your dreams and being an Olympian.?
Laine is now in France training with the rest of the Haitian Olympic team. Laine grew up in Newburgh, New York and had never visited Haiti until last year. He had contacted Haitian sports officials in 2007 and told them that he wanted to compete for the country in the Olympics. He knew he would have a better chance of competing as a Haitian rather than an American. ?In the U.S., even gold medalists are a dime a dozen,? said Laine. ?There?s a lot more good I can do competing for Haiti, representing the country on the international level.?
Laine is building a charity called Jump For Haiti Foundation, which he believes would help sports programs in Haiti. This is when he may call Zuckerberg for help. ?Of course, in hindsight, I wish I had gotten in (as an early Facebook investor),? said Laine. ?Mark and I took different paths, and our paths are still somewhat intertwined. If it ends up that Facebook becomes a big donator to Jump for Haiti, then that?s how I?ll be able to benefit from it.?