Roller earns Olympic berth


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Some of the best sailors from across the globe gathered for the 2012 Laser World Championships in Boltenhagen, Germany, last weekend, and for St. John native Mimi Roller, it was her final chance at an Olympic Games qualifier.

Roller won one race and finished sixth overall among 66 sailors in the Laser Radial Silver Fleet. Only nine qualifying slots were available for the 2012 Olympics and Roller just made the cut.

"We are just elated," Mimi's father, Hugo Roller, said Monday after he monitored the progress of the regatta online. "During the regatta, it was different extremes every day. We went from cliff hangers of fear to complete jubilation."

Mimi Roller was traveling back to the U.S. mainland on Monday and was not available for comment.

She will join Cy Thompson, another Laser sailor, as the only U.S. Virgin Islands sailors in London this summer. The Games will run July 27 through Aug. 12. Both sailors also represented the territory at the 2011 Pan American Games last fall in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Roller will become just the second USVI female sailor to compete at the Olympics. Lisa Neuberger competed at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, and was the flag bearer for the USVI contingent at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

"Mimi has come such a long way with us," USVI Olympic Committee St. Thomas-St. John vice president Lyn Reid said. "She has been with us during the last two CAC Games and the last two Pan Am Games and now this will be the next step for her."

After the 2011 Pan American Games, the only two opportunities for the USVI sailors to get an Olympic bid was at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia, last December and the 2012 World Championships.

Thompson got the nod in Perth while Roller finished 87th overall out of 102 sailors in the Women's Laser Radial and missed an Olympic qualification.

"This was her last chance and she made it happen," V.I. Sailing Association president Phil Shannon said. "Mimi has been working toward this for the last few years and has competed in countless national and regional regattas. Now that she is in, the next 60 days will be important."

For the next few weeks, Hugo Roller said his daughter will assist her college sailing team at St. Mary's College in Maryland prepare for the upcoming NCAA National Championships.

During her junior year at St. Mary's last year, Roller crewed for the Seahawks during a third-place showing at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider/ICSA Women's National Championship. St. Mary's finished fifth at the ICSA Team Race National Championship, and was 10th at the ICSA Gill Coed National Championship.

She put her college career on hold this year while she set her sights on the 2012 Olympics with an aggressive training and international regatta schedule.

"After a few weeks, Mimi will be back on St. John with her coach and they will be training non-stop," Hugo Roller said. "I think the plan is to get to London a few weeks before the Games so she gets situated."

Shannon said it will be important to plan out a weight-training regiment before London, and carefully develop a sailing schedule that will include different camps.

"I mean, we're literally two months away from the start of racing," said Shannon, who was the USVI sailing coach at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. "The time in between is important. These athletes want to peak at the right time."

USVI track and field athletes Tabarie Henry, LaVerne Jones-Ferrette, Allison Peter and Muhammad Halim have already punched their tickets for London, along with freestyle swimmer Branden Whitehurst.

USVI shooter Ned Gerard, a 2008 Olympian, scored a minimal qualifying score for the Olympics while competing at the 2011 Pan American Games. If that wild card score holds up - Gerard is supposed to find out next month - he is expected to join the USVI contingent in London.

Barrows, Rosenberg miss Olympic qualification in 49ers

USVI sailors Thomas Barrows - a 2008 Olympian - and Nate Rosenberg finished 54th overall out of 74 teams at the 2012 49er World Championships in Zadar, Croatia, two weeks ago. It was the duo's final chance at an outright Olympic qualifier but they came up short, Reid said.

"There were only five spots left and they didn't qualify," Reid said. "We are still looking into possible wild card opportunities."

Bermuda, Canada, Greece, Italy and Japan earned the final five spots for the 2012 Olympics.

The USVI sailors have expressed interest in continuing their Olympic campaign and setting their sights on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email agray@dailynews.vi.

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