Written by Jo Montgomery
June 2021

The days are moving quickly as we approach this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, scheduled to begin on Friday, July 23, 2021. With just weeks to go, there’s no doubt that LTJG Nikole ‘Nikki’ Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss are prepared to sail into history, Olympic medals glistening in the sun. And when the day arrives that we watch these elite athletes compete in the biggest sporting event on earth, we’re bound to wonder “How do they do that?” Well, we certainly don’t know all their secrets. But we did get a rare peek into their long and remarkable journey to the Olympics.

First of all, they’ve beaten daunting odds just qualifying for the Olympics. The fact is, the likelihood of earning a coveted spot on an Olympic team is minuscule. In fact, in most cases, you’re far more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning. So, what’s the secret? Let’s start from the beginning. As it turns out, both of these inspiring women were at the helm of sailing vessels at a surprisingly early age.

Nikki Barnes as a child. Photo by Dean Barnes.

For Nikki, a life-long love of sailing began in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she grew up. She started sailing at the tender age of six, and joked “What else are you going to do on an island?” After her very first time competing in a race, “All I wanted to do was keep going!” She also admitted she was motivated by the desire to beat her brother, who started sailing before her. But she didn’t just want to beat her brother, she wanted to beat the rest of the boys too. Growing up, Nikki found she was one of the only girls sailing in her age group. But she was driven. She sailed all four years in high school, then earned a bronze medal at the 2011 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in the Girls 420. She only pick up momentum from there.

While sailing in college, Nikki made the decision to join the United States Coast Guard Academy. “I joined the academy so I could help make it safer on the water for me and other boaters.” When entering the academy, she made it clear that her ambition was to be a coast guard officer, and that she also wanted to go to the Olympics one day. The academy responded with the promise that if she did well in college, they’d do what they could to get her a spot training. As expected, she did well and they rewarded her with the opportunity to be an officer in Miami, FL, where she was able to train. “The Coast Guard has helped me so much, allowing me to be both an officer and go to the Olympics.”

Lara grew up sailing in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It was on Bear Lake’s 131 acres of surface area that she was charmed by sailing. She quickly decided that she didn’t like sailing alone, and shared that she was “very excited when I was able to sail with my friends.”  Because sailing just isn’t a year-round sport in Minnesota, she became a well-rounded athlete, playing basketball, running, and dancing. But sailing was Lara’s true passion. As a matter of fact, she passed up a running scholarship to another college, to attend Eckerd College in Florida. That’s where she took sailing to a higher level. Eckerd touts that “Lara is the only known former Triton to train for the Olympics in any sport.” She started sailing competitively and never stopped.

Lara as a child. Photo by Lara’s mother, Sue Dallman.

After graduation, Lara wasted no time campaigning for the Olympics. She continued to push herself, transitioning to larger, faster boats. Driven as she was, as time passed, she started entertaining thoughts of putting her sailing career, and Olympic ambitions, on the back burner. She was fully prepared to move into a full-time career in media. But that’s not what fate had in mind. Last spring Lara met Nikki and the rest, as they say, is history.  The two hired an Olympic coach and Team Perfect Vision Sailing was established.

We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to see where God-given talent, unyielding determination, and the resolve to be Olympic champions will take these athletes. But they can’t do it alone. If you can help Nikki and Lara achieve their dream of winning a medal for the United States, by defraying some of the costs of training and competing, donate to the USCGA Alumni Association website www.chaalumni.org/Marinalife

Speaking of medals, here’s a bit of fun 2021 Tokyo Olympic trivia for you. This year’s medals will be crafted from 100-percent recycled electronic waste. That’s right! We’re talking discarded laptops and smartphones. Another interesting fact is that medal winners’ names will be engraved on the main host stadium’s walls. We admit it, we’re obsessed with medals. Because, from the top of our sun hats to the soles of our boat shoes, we know Nikki and Lara will be coming home winners.

Photo by Joao Costa Ferreira

Join us as we follow these athletes on their incredible journey to the Olympics. Do this by visiting their team website http://perfectvisionsailing.com/, where you can stay up-to-date with team news, read their blog, see photos and videos, sign up for their newsletter, and even forward messages right to Nikki and Lara. Send them some inspiration and be part of this winning team.