U.S.-born Haitian Olympian roomed with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard

Jason Owens
Fourth-Place Medal

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seems to have his hands on everything these days. Now he's showing up in Olympic headlines.

No, he hasn't been training with the Winklevoss twins to mend fences and boost his rowing skills. Bloomberg recently ran a feature on Zuckerberg's friend and freshman roommate from Harvard, Samyr Laine, who will compete for his parents' home country of Haiti in the triple jump in London.

Laine, who first visited Haiti in 2007, realized that competition was stiff in the U.S. and that his best chance of reaching his Olympic goal was to compete for the small Caribbean country.

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"In the U.S., even gold medalists are a dime a dozen," Laine told Bloomberg. "There's a lot more good I can do competing for Haiti, representing the country on the international level."

Laine isn't the only American-born athlete to compete for foreign countries in the Olympics. Basketball players Becky Hammon, Russia, and Chris Kaman, Germany, both caught flak for wearing foreign colors in 2008. Russia and Germany both claimed bronze in Beijing. Hammon is playing for Russia again in London.

This year, rower Brodie Buckland will compete for Australia while wrestler Jesse Ruiz will wear Mexican colors. Both are American born.

Only time will tell if Laine stirs up as much controversy as Hammon and Kaman did in 2008.

Laine says he still keeps in touch with Zuckerberg, but they have taken very different paths since sharing a dorm room. While Zuckerberg, a billionaire several times over, has become an icon of youthful business and financial success, Laine has set aside his career goals to focus on training. He depends on a $1,250 monthly stipend from the International Olympic Committee for athletes competing for impoverished nations. He sometimes struggles to pay his rent.

Described by friends as "hyperanalytical" and having "monomaniacal focus," he doesn't lack ambition, however. He has twice deferred a New York law firm job to continue his training. He must be good; the job is expected to be waiting for him after the Olympics.

Laine is not expected, however, to medal in London. His best official jump of the year qualifies as the world's 30th-best jump of 2012.

What he does plan to accomplish is to kick-start the Jump for Haiti foundation, which he hopes will help fund sports programs in the country best known for suffering a devastating earthquake in 2010.

And besides, it never hurts to have "Olympic athlete" on your resume.

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