Indiana’s Vini Lanza Joins Mark Spitz With Emotional NCAA Title (VIDEO INTERVIEW)

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Vini Lanza has been a part of several historic performances over the years.

A month ago, he became the first swimmer in Big Ten history to earn Big Ten Championships Swimmer of the Meet three times.

But that was just the Big Ten Championships.

At the NCAA Championships, Lanza has won relay titles and been a top contender, but that individual title had always eluded him.

Everything changed on Friday during his final NCAA Championships, giving him the most historic moment of his career.

Lanza was emotional and energetic walking out for the 100 fly, and he turned in his most passionate performance.

Lanza touched the wall in the 100 fly, looked up and saw the No. 1 next to his name and erupted with emotion, yelling, pumping his fist and even doing a back flip over the lane line. He had finally achieved his goal of a national title — and became the first Indiana swimmer to win the event since Mark Spitz.

“I was really excited for that one, a little nervous, honestly. I knew I could go a best time, so I had that in my mind,” Lanza said. “It is awesome, a great feeling for sure. When I touched the wall, I didn’t know if I had won. I was just waiting for the sound because I can tell what side of the pool is cheering. It was our side, and I was just stoked.”

That historical significance is enough to stop anyone in their tracks. Spitz swept the 100 fly titles from 1969-72 and went on to become one of the greatest Olympians of all time.

Lanza, like all swimmers, dreamed of the Olympics when he was growing up in Brazil.

“He comes from a part of Brazil which is shockingly similar to Indiana. It is the Midwest of Brazil,” Indiana coach Ray Looze said.

“Blue-collar. Hard-working. But they like to celebrate — and they like to win. Him jumping on the lane line, that is Brazilian. He just really wanted to win. That passion really resonates with the team. He has been our leader all year long.”

Lanza finished in 44.37 to become the sixth-fastest in history.

But on this night, he was finally the fastest and it was part of an historic performance for the Hoosiers, too, who won three individual events on the night.

“He is definitely the team role model. He ha so much energy all the time,” said fellow senior Ian Finnerty, who won the 100 breast on Friday. “(His win) was awesome. That got me fired up a bunch. He celebrates so much, we are kind of polar opposites, but it gets me going.”

Of course, it gets Lanza going.

“I have always been a really emotional guy. I like to give it everything I have. I put my heart and soul in every swim because I am not just swimming for myself, I am swimming for my teammates and for people back home. My family and friends are all watching. We have this saying that Brazilians never give up and I carried that with me. I can’t give up.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

That mantra started long before he took a chance at coming to the U.S. and choosing Indiana.

“I just wanted an opportunity. Ray and the coaches were awesome to me from day one,” he said. “I like the team atmosphere. I was so far away from home, I just wanted somewhere that I could really fit and feel like a family. That is what I felt at Indiana.”

As a freshman, he finished 11th in the 100 fly. Sophomore year, he finished sixth in both butterfly events. Last year, with Florida’s Caeleb Dressel crushing the NCAA record, it looked like he had a shot in the 200 fly, but he ended up third in both.

“Every year, I try to get better. My junior year, I took a major step,” Lanza said. “Having three A finals gave me that experience. Ray always says you have to learn how to win. I started learning how to win — and winning is good. You have to work hard in practice and give everything. I am just really proud to be a part of this.”

This time it was emotional.

Not everyone can handle being that emotional and energetic before a race, but Lanza used it, harnessed it and it propelled him to his first title.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

4 comments

  1. avatar
    Taylor Covington

    This is awesome. Great to see that kind of passion in the pool!

  2. avatar
    Daniel D'Addona

    that kind of emotion and energy can fuel you or consume you and Vini has it working for him. It is incredible to see how much passion he has and how he feeds off of his own energy … and energizes his teammates.

  3. Craig Welday

    congratulations Mr Lanza…good swim!