Local sailor headed for Olympics

Nikki Barnes (left) and Shoreview’s Lara Dallman-Weiss during a 2020 race.

When Lara Weiss was very young, her mother, Sue, gave her a book that inspired a dream. And that dream came true last month.

“I’ve wanted to be an Olympian since I was very young,” she told Shoreview Press. “My mom got me a book that highlighted successful female athletes, which made me see it as a possibility, and I’ve always carried the dream with me.”

The Shoreview native, now Lara Dallman-Weiss of Miami, and partner Nikki Barnes recently earned the USA’s slot in sailing for the summer Olympics slated for July in Japan.

Dallman-Weiss and Barnes, sailing as Team Perfect Vision, were one of three American teams still in contention for one Olympics berth when they raced at the 470 World Championship Regatta in Vilamoura, Portugal, concluding March 13.

This was the last of three races that served as Olympic trials. Dallman-Weiss and Barnes beat the other two American teams while placing seventh of 27 teams overall.

“My initial reaction was sheer pride and joy,” Dallman-Weiss said. “Our team has worked unbelievably hard over the past three years and we performed like we knew how when it counted.”

There’s not much room or time to savor the achievement now, she said, as they continue to train hard. Next is the European Championship slated for April 30 to May7. Beyond that, their schedule is COVID dependent. Their Olympic event is scheduled for late July in Enoshima, Japan.

Dallman-Weiss started sailing at age six at White Bear Yacht Club, where her father, John Weiss, the lead race officer on White Bear Lake, was her first coach. 

She attended Oak Hill Montessori, Island Lake Elementary, Chippewa Middle School, and Mounds View High School (Class of 2007). 

At MVHS, she was a member of a state champion track team), running the 4-by-800 relay and 1600. Otherwise, she dabbled in several sports: cross country in grades 9,10, and 12 (varsity as a senior), Viewettes dance team as a junior, basketball in grades 9-10. Her long-term commitments were sailing every summer, and dancing with Larkin Dance Studio from ages 3 to 13.

At Eckerd College in St Petersburg, FL, majoring in nutrition, she was captain of the sailing team and placed third in the women’s national collegiate meet.

Continuing to sail, Dallman-Weiss had a big year in 2016, winning Key West Race Week (C&C 30 Class), Etchells Pacific Coast Championships (as main trimmer), and North American (40 class, Flash Gordon) titles.

After that, she sailed in several professional circuits on “other people’s boats” and started working in sailing media, which eventually led to drone flying to help teams analyze their performance. 

“I still sailed, but less, since I was more in the coaching role, until I came back to my Olympic dream,”she explained.

Dallman-Weiss met Nikki Barnes in April of 2018 and they started sailing together competitively. Barnes, a Coast Guard officer, lives in her St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. 

Dallman-Weiss lists her occupation as athlete, as does Barnes, who has a dispensation from the Coast Guard to pursue her Olympic goal.

“Aside from all of the rigorous training of being an elite athlete,” Dallman-Weiss said, “we also manage our entire campaign, which includes shipping boats around the world, scheduling travel, and raising money to fund the entire project.”

A year ago, the American teams were in Spain for the 2020 world championships when the event was canceled amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, which delayed the Olympics for a year.

That delay seemed to work in their favor. They used the time to train in Santander, on the north coast of Spain, and in the Canary Islands.

“During the COVID time … we were able to train with these incredible teams, in really hard conditions,” Barnes told her hometown paper in St. Thomas. “It was all about just the time to put our heads down and get the work done.”

Dallman-Weiss is the second MVHS graduate to earn a spot in the Olympics, joining Kyra Condie, 24, who qualified in Rock Climbing for the 2020 Olympics in Japan which were delayed for a year (featured in the Shoreview Press in February 2020).

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