Puerto Rico native and Ridgefield resident Emmanuel Lanzo has been coaching elite swimmers since 1997. He moved to Ridgefield in 2013 from Puerto Rico and is currently the CEO and head coach of the senior and master group swimmers at the Ridgefield Aquatic Club as well as the coach of the RHS Boys Swim Team.  When disaster hit his home country of Puerto Rico this year he knew he had to do what he could to help.  

Emmanuel decided to bring three Puerto Rican Olympic swimming hopefuls to Ridgefield so that they could continue their training.  

“The lack of electricity has been in the news, but there is a gasoline shortage, the roads and infrastructure are a disaster, and the ocean water is contaminated and smells from decomposing animals.”  

Without power and gasoline, the pools cannot be maintained safely.  “These swimmers are elite athletes who need to be in the pool training every day.  They cannot miss several weeks to months of training.  Sports bring hope to our country” states Lanzo.  He hopes that these swimmers will inspire and bring hope to a desperate situation.  With the help of Ridgefield Apartments, three swimmers from Puerto Rico will call Ridgefield home.  

Steve Zemo, owner of Ridgefield Apartments, was contacted by Leslie Krischo an agent with William Pitt to see if he could help house the swimmers in one of his properties. “We often receive requests for help, typically after a fire or hurricane and when we are able, we are thrilled to provide housing. Over the years we have housed dozens of families in need.  

Once the athletes’ situation was presented, our staff immediately jumped into action.”  Coincidentally, Ridgefield Apartments CFO and former Board of Education member Mike Taylor is one of Lanzo’s swimmers at the Ridgefield Aquatic Center. This made the connection and desire to help even more personal for Ridgefield Apartments.

Ridgefield Apartments has a division that offers fully furnished one, two and three bedroom apartments for short term and long term leases.   Because the units are fully furnished and stocked with everything that they need, the athletes were able to move in the same day they visited the Ridgefield Apartments office.  All that they needed were their personal belongings.

Meet the swimmers:

Andres Solivan-Rivera is a 20 year swimmer from San Juan.  Lanzo began coaching Rivera when he was 5 years old. Rivera states that “everyone at home has gone crazy, there is violence and fighting everywhere and it isn’t safe.”  When asked about what he would like to accomplish with his swimming career, he says that the sports in PR are very serious.  “When Monica Puig played in the gold medal tennis match in the Rio Olympic Games the whole country stopped to watch.  This is my motivation to give my best, to give the people of Puerto Rico hope.”  Puig won the first every Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico in 2016 and the entire country reveled in her victory.

Barbara Caraballo from Ponce, was a medalist in the Central American Games in 2010 and 2014 and has been swimming since she was six years old. She won the bronze medal in the 400m IM and the silver medal in 400m Freestyle relay.  She has known Lanzo since she was seven.  Like many international swimmers, she attended Florida Gulf Coast University here in the US to train and swam competitively in college.  She graduated last year with a degree in Communications.

Yeziel Morales is from the second largest city in Puerto Rico, Bayamon.  He began swimming when he was 3 and has been competing since he was 5.  Like Andres and Barbara, he was coached by Lanzo as a child.  All three of the swimmers have known each other and have been competing together since they were young children. The hurricanes forced Yeziel to stop swimming for several weeks.  He has never taken a break from swimming, let alone weeks on end.  “We had to leave to continue our training.  It is too dangerous at home.”  He hopes to win a medal in the Central American games this summer.

All three of the swimmers will represent the Ridgefield Aquatic Club at local competitions including the New England Senior meeting in December.  

For updates and information on how to help support the swimmers, please visit https://www.facebook.com/RidgefieldApts .  A gift card drop box for groceries, food, or personal care items will be located at the Ridgefield Apartments office at 100B Danbury Road Ridgefield, CT.