St. John sailing sensation Mimi Roller.
If all goes according to plan, St. John sailor Mayumi “Mimi” Roller will have her slot at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games secured by the end of the year.
Roller must be among the top 29 finishers in her fleet at the Perth 2011 International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Championships in Australia this December in order to qualify for women’s laser radial competition in London this summer.
If she doesn’t finish among the top 29 countries in her fleet at Perth, there are several other routes Roller can take to make it to London — either through a second qualifier in May 2012 or by securing wild card status. But for now, she’s focusing on the direct path from Australia to the 2012 Summer Games.
“After Australia, the next qualifier is in Germany where the next 10 spots will be given,” said Roller. “But that is in May which makes it really hard for scheduling because there are a couple of events immediately after the competition in Germany which would be good for me to prepare for the Games. So we’re concentrating on Australia now and hoping to get it done then.”
Roller left for Down Under last week, where she’ll first compete in the Sail Melbourne Regatta before flying over to Perth, which runs December 3 through 18, and is the principal qualification event for Olympic sailing.
Being billed as the “biggest-ever event for Olympic sailing” there are more than 1,500 sailors and 1,000 boats representing 80 different nations expected to compete in the Perth regatta, according to www.sailing.org.
While Roller may not have sailed in a regatta quite the size of the 2011 ISAF World Championships, international competition is nothing new for her. The St. John sailor first competed in the Pan American games four years ago as a 16-year-old. She recently returned from Mexico where she took part in her second Pan Am games, where she was the first female sailor from the Virgin Islands to qualify for the competition.
“Last time I competed at the Pan Am games, we got wild card status and so has everyone else who has gone,” said Roller. “Cy Thompson and I were the first Virgin Islanders to actually qualify for the Pan Am games and that was a big accomplishment.”
Once in Mexico, Roller contended with fluky, light wind and a fleet of experienced international sailors, she explained.
“The level of talent at the Pan Am Games is really, really high and a lot of countries are represented, including the girls from U.S. and Mexico, who are some of the top female sailors in the world,” said Roller. “The conditions were very, very tricky.”
“It was really light wind the whole time — which usually favors me more than really windy conditions — but it was still very difficult racing because the wind was coming from so many different places and it was super shifty,” Roller said. “It was difficult to tell which side of the course to go to and the wind was all over the place. We even had to restart one of the races for the games because the wind had shifted so much.”
The top four positions were quickly established and the rest of the fleet of 13 sailors battled it out, Roller added.
“Besides the top four girls, we were all within a point or two of each other,” she said. “Every single race really counted and it was really difficult if you had a bad start because the person who got out ahead had the clear air right away.”
At the end of competition, Roller finished eighth overall, which she deemed a success.
“It was a really good experience and I’m happy with my finish,” she said. “It was an improvement over four years ago when I did the Pan Am Games for the first time.”
Now a 20-year-old, Roller would be in her senior year at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, but she has taken the year off from school to concentrate on her Olympic bid. She visited her old sailing team after Mexico and before jetting off to Australia.
“Even though I didn’t sail lasers up in Maryland, it was still really nice to get in a different boat and take just a little break and have fun,” said Roller. “It was refreshing to sail with my St. Mary’s sailing team and catch up with my college coach.”
With her little break behind her, Roller will be all business as she sets her sights on London, via Australia. She planned to start training as soon as she landed and hopefully have her spot in the 2012 Games set by December 18.
After Australia, Roller has a slate of regattas booked from the Caribbean Mid-Winters in the Dominican Republic to the Miami Olympic Class Regatta and she will continue to fundraise in order to cover coaching and boat costs.
“If fundraising goes well, I want to buy a new boat in Florida and have it to train with for the month I’ll be travelling around competing,” said Roller. “It will be much more expensive to rent boats at each event, so it would actually be cheaper to just buy one. I really need to keep fundraising because that will determine how many events I can have coaching for.”
Roller must pay for her coach to travel to the event, and once the coach is there, cover housing and food costs as well.
“The fundraising is going pretty well; so far I’ve raised about $30,000,” said the sailor. “I’m trying to raise up to $100,000 at least which will help determine my level of coaching. Ideally, I’d like to be coached at as many events as possible.”
For more information about how to help Roller finance her way to the Olympics, email the sailor at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.