The Coast Guard keeps its junior officers pretty busy, and yet Lt. j.g. Nikole “Nikki” Barnes has qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Balancing an intense workload both at her desk and on deck, Barnes will compete in the Women’s 470-class sailboat category, joining a small group of Coast Guard service members that have competed in the Olympics.
“This whole campaign from a Coast Guard perspective has been about balance,” said Barnes about balancing work at Sector Miami and competitive sailing. “Whenever I had an opportunity to work on [incident management] qualifications, I would work on them. I made sure to let my command know when I would need time to really focus on my training and they helped me a lot to make sure I was being supported while I was at Sector and when I was away training.”
Barnes and sailing partner Lara Dallman-Weiss placed seventh out of 27 boats at the February 470 World Championship in Vilamoura, Portugal, their first top 10 finish at a world championship.
An Olympic medal isn’t the only shiny object Barnes has been working toward, as she will promote to lieutenant in May. Barnes has successfully managed the demands of high-level performance in both the Coast Guard and competitive sports.
Always looking for opportunities to progress, COVID-related restrictions prevented sail training on the water for approximately two months, and Barnes to jibe efforts at Sector Miami to complete some major qualifications.
Barnes’ supervisor, Lt. Iia Carter, deputy incident management division at Sector Miami, had nothing but praise.
“Nikki is driven and hard working,” said Carter about the ways that Barnes has found balance between two major accomplishments as an officer and athlete. “Putting on rank shows her dedication.”
Barnes attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Introduction Mission, Marion Military Institute, and then graduated from the Academy in 2017. Following graduation, Barnes has managed to navigate the waypoints of sail training, competition schedules and responsibilities at her current assignment.
Barnes began sailing at age six. Former Coast Guard Lt. Al Damida, jr. met Barnes when she was in fourth grade, when she expressed a desire to compete in the Olympics and possibly become a military officer in the Coast Guard. As a Coast Guard Academy Outreach Partner, Damida has led key recruiting efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has since mentored Barnes.
“Barnes’ personal goal setting is no different than mission or objective planning in the military,” said Damida. “There are very few Olympians that served in the Coast Guard, so I am very excited about her contributions as an active duty military member to the U.S. Olympic Team and the United States of America.”
“I originally told my parents I would never join the military…that was my brother’s venture at the time and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Barnes said. “I attended the Academy Introductory Mission my junior year of high school and after a week of being yelled at and woken up early but also learning about the missions of the Coast Guard, I fell in love with the Coast Guard. I am always on the water and the allure of creating a safer environment for fellow boaters was a big intrigue for me. As I have been in the Coast Guard, I have seen even more how this is a tremendous organization of people working hard to make a safer a maritime environment.”
Connect with a Coast Guard Olympian
Hosted by USCG Academy
When: Mar 30, 2021 • 12 p.m. ET •
Where: On ZOOM Click here to register
Who: Lt. j.g. Nikole ‘Nikki’ Barnes Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017 and teammate Lara Dallman-Weiss recently earned their spot representing the U.S.A. in the Women’s 470 at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games taking place this summer in Tokyo. Check in with Barnes as she updates us on her journey and what lies ahead on the road to Tokyo.