Former coach of CT-native Olympic swimmer shows us what it takes to churn out championship swimmers

Japan 2020

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Last month, we introduced you to Kieran Smith, a swimmer from Ridgefield who was heading to Olympic Trials. We are happy to report Kieran made the Olympic team and will represent Team USA in Tokyo starting Saturday. 

News 8’s Meteorologist Ashley Baylor took a trip to meet Kieran’s former coach, Emmanuel Lanzo, at the Ridgefield Aquatic Club to see what it takes to churn out champion swimmers.

Swimming is one of the most-watched events in the Summer Olympics. It’s a grueling sport that takes years of training and discipline.

These swimmers at Ridgefield Aquatic Club know that discipline very well–swimming thousands of yards per day–sometimes in dual practices–one in the morning before school, and another after school.

But it’s not just about how far they swim. Every swimmer needs to focus on their stroke technique and to help them perfect that stroke, they use fins, paddles, kickboards, and sometimes, even snorkels.

And it’s lap after lap of perfecting their turns and pushing off the wall with strong streamlines. Coach Lanzo gave Ashley a little refresher course on her streamline before she got back in the water for a medley relay with his future champions.

The 50, 100s, and relays–these are short sprints, and there is no room for error. Your stroke has to be fast, your turns have to be fast, and your starts need to be fast.

Arsenio Bustos said, “The race is a lot quicker than people think. It’s less than 50 seconds so it’s over [snap] like that. You don’t have any room for error.”

Bustos of Woodbridge also competed at the Olympic trials in June. While he didn’t make the team this time, he knows the shorter events have to be, well, nothing short of perfection.

“In the 100 freestyle at trials, there was a quarter of a second or half a second separating 16th from 8th,” explained Bustos. “That’s ridiculous. that’s insane.”

It’s not only a physical sport, but a mental sport understanding how to swim a 100, 200, or 400.

Coach Lanzo added, “A kid needs to understand the race, know what it requires – the tactics. I always call it ‘spread the butter to the corners’, understand the race, how do you swim a 100? The knowledge is the foundation of everything.”

“Before the race, when I’m visualizing, I try to focus on how I split the race,” Bustos described. “Make sure I don’t take it out too fast or too slow. I back-half my 100 freestyle a lot more than most, so I don’t take it out too fast, but I come hard the last 50. So making sure I’m not in a position where I’m too far out of the race, where I can’t gain on everybody in the last 50.”

Perfect technique coupled with perfect pace potentially earning a swimmer a place on the podium.

Coach Lanzo: “I always tell the kids, there is a time for you to be satisfied when the cameras are looking at you. That’s it: cameras as gone you focus on everything you need to do next time to get better.”

And there is always room for improvement because, hey, even gold medal Olympians have coaches, right? 

We wish Arsenio and all those swimmers the best in the future. As for Kieran, he is in Tokyo and will be competing in the 400-meter free on Saturday, the 200-meter free on Sunday, and the 4 by 200-meter free relay on Tuesday.

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