Looking back with Lara Dallman-Weiss
Published on August 30th, 2021
American Lara Dallman-Weiss, who competed with Nikki Barnes in the Women’s Two Person Dinghy event at Tokyo 2020, reflected back on preparing to go to Tokyo and processing being back home again.
I just found this drafted post I wrote back in March 2020, after coming back from what would have been our final Olympic qualifier and in some ways it seems like that time was a dress rehearsal for what it’s like now to come back from Tokyo.
There are so many thoughts feelings and emotions and I keep finding myself caught between a very energized, excited, creative place and one where my mind and body just don’t know how to process the past three years of asking it to constantly show up. I know it takes a while for the dust to settle, but it’s always a strange place!
Today would have been day one of racing the 2020 470 World Championship, a calendar date that had been the center focus of my world, and instead I am sitting in my kitchen in Miami under self-quarantine.
Processing everything for me is happening on several levels and I cannot begin to write without acknowledging the fact that I do hold a higher sense of gratitude and perspective for the fact that I am healthy, happy and pursuing my dream.
With sailing comes adaptability, over the past month our strategy has adapted from fighting to represent the USA in Tokyo and a top 10 finish at worlds, to navigating the logistics of suddenly getting 4 people home as the world is locking down and packing up camp in preparation for who knows what is to come! Here’s a bit from the past four weeks:
Nikki and I traveled to Germany February 9 to pick up our boat from storage and measure a new mast as a final addition to our worlds equipment. We had a week to adjust to Europe and practice before our pre-worlds regatta, which ended really well and we tied for 6th place. Aside from a few hurdles, we were right on track for peaking on time and really enjoying the range of weather conditions in Palma. Up until this point, the only team we heard wouldn’t be racing due to COVID were the Chinese (my friend is the team physical trainer and so we had been following their 2-month lockdown).
The week before Worlds everything took a big shift. Several teams had gone home for a few days off before the final racing prep. It was too far for us to go home, so we spent our time exploring Palma. And then the texts, rumors and chaos began. It started gradually; I think, as people weren’t sure of how serious the pandemic could get.
Normally before a major regatta, everyone is speculating about what the weather will be like, but this week talk was about which boarders would be closed and when. I think it was four days before the regatta when the Italians pulled out, they knew their boarders were closing and were required by the federation to return home.
The next day we rigged our boat and went on the water with the news that a decision would be made whether or not the event would be postponed. A strange thought to have in the back of our minds, but we kept focus. When we got back to the beach after training the event was under postponement so many people were on the phone. Our team was still focused on staying in Palma, a small group had committed to holding practice regattas and making use of one of the best venues!
We were still in laser focus mode, which sometimes inhibits the ability to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Plus, we had our housing, coach boat, and vehicle rented through this time, why leave and expose ourselves to the risks of travel? We were committed to staying, but each hour new news came in and it made staying relaxed nearly impossible.
It wasn’t until Friday night that our decision changed; all but one team packed up and left for home and the word turned from a likely 14 day lockdown to much longer. We drove down to the beach after dinner, still back and forth about if we were staying, and it was so bizarre. My heart sank to see all of the boats packed and leaving on that night’s ferry.
There is such a build up before major events and this one ended so suddenly, no goodbyes, and a lot of panic. The next morning, we all woke up knowing in our hearts that we had to leave. If this lasts longer than 2 weeks it would be impossible to stay, we needed to be home.
We bought plane tickets, packed our boat (if you’ve even been to Palma you know this means an extensive cleaning and washing of the super fine sand away from all equipment), and had one last meal together and returned to Miami. Thankfully clearing customs wasn’t too bad, we got the last flight out of Madrid, and it actually feels nice to be in my own bed.
I want to mention that as odd as it sounds, I did mourn the loss of the Worlds not starting as scheduled. I need to be okay with the low I’m feeling and recognize that our team put forth all efforts to peak March 16-21 and instead I was watching in shock as team after team packed up and left for each one of their own unknown lives at home.
I am also sad for the senior high school athletes who must be crushed without the opportunity to finish their spring season. At 31 years old I’m gaining perspective in the world and I know that there is more to life than sailing, I know how to focus on controlling what’s controllable, that positivity and less stress contribute to good health.
And I think back to my senior year where I worked so hard during the indoor track season to earn my PRs, our team won True Team State and I can’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly end my senior year with such unknown.
I know I need to acknowledge this feeling and let it be part of the wave I’m riding. On a much larger scale there can be so many positive things that come from this; for example for the past two years and especially the past year after bringing Robby on board, I’ve had a feeling of knowing we only have so much time left and wishing the campaign could continue longer than it would (the 470 will turn into a co-ed boat for 2024 so it isn’t possible for Nikki and I to keep racing).
This opportunity is a forced pause, once the chaos and dust settle nearly everyone on this planet is forced to stop for a bit. Can this be a good thing that unites us globally?
I also want to focus on what has Palma given me over the past month: stellar sunsets, a greater bond with my team, clear and quiet starry night skies, a full range of sailing conditions that let us test our speed and racing skills against the world’s best, a few beautiful bike rides, a great sense of purpose. We also brought in our mental coach, Charly.
Having him with us gave me some powerful tools that I will always use in life, especially how he guided us through the decision making process in the last few days. He reminded us whatever decision was made, despite other teams and external factors; it must feel okay in our gut.
Regardless of our US Olympic Team selection and how the trials may be reformatted, regardless if I return to Europe in one month or one year, or what may or may not happen with the 2020 Olympics, I still have my team. This is my family and my best friends. We are still 100% committed to becoming the fastest and best 470 sailors, and it’s something I’ve secretly begged for more time with, not wanting this campaign to end! So I’ll be okay.
High: Aside from our pre-worlds regatta, Nikki and I had a moment onboard during one of our last practices where something happened that caused us to laugh uncontrollably and I could barely hold the kite in. I couldn’t even hook into the trapeze we were laughing so hard. It was a good stress release and a sign we really are a great team together.
Low: Our quick pack up meant leaving my bike in Palma, not knowing when we will meet again (hopefully soon!)
Something gained: The realization that the ONLY thing we have complete control over is our character and that fear is not an option. I’ve gone through several moments of fear during the past year, it has physically affected me in a range of ways and a decision I can choose to make!
As always, thank you for reading and my wish is for everyone to find something good in the world right now!
Lara and teammate Nikki Barnes competed in Tokyo 2020 from July 28 to August 4, 2021.
Race schedule was staggered for the ten sailing events from July 25 to August 4.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021