- August 20, 2015
DR. PHILLIPS In many ways, Emanuel Vazquez is like any other student who is new to a school.
Since moving to the area from Puerto Rico in June, he is learning the layout of Dr. Phillips High, making friends and working hard at his studies.
Of course, there is one notable difference between Vazquez and many of his new classmates: Vazquez is also training to compete as a diver for Puerto Rico in the 2017 Junior Pan American Championships later this month in Canada.
It is actually a big part of the reason he moved to the Dr. Phillips area from his native Puerto Rico. Now, he is training with YCF Diving coach Mark Ruiz, a former U.S. Olympian in 2000 and 2004, out of the YMCA Aquatic Center.
Ruiz said this opportunity will provide Vazquez his biggest stage yet in the sport and will give the up-and-comer a chance to show what he can do.
“It’s a huge deal for him to get that international experience and exposure,” Ruiz said. “We have a plan for him for the next three years for (the) 2020 (Olympics).”
Vazquez, 17, said he first was drawn to the sport when he was just 6 and his mother was working at a pool in Puerto Rico.
“I got really interested in doing all the flips and all the stuff,” he said.
He got going in diving, as well as synchronized swimming, and said he does it for the fleeting moments when he is in the air, waiting to hit the water.
“It’s only like three seconds, but in the air you feel all of the adrenaline,” Vazquez said. “After a good dive, when you come out of the water, everybody is screaming that you did a good job.”
Ruiz met Vazquez in the summer of 2016, and the two hit it off instantly. The former Olympian and veteran coach said he quickly recognized potential in Vazquez.
“What he does more than anything is he is dedicated and disciplined,” Ruiz said. “He’s got the physical talent — obviously that goes with it — but, more importantly, his drive and discipline toward the sport are what make him promising.”
The two have more in common than just diving, too. Ruiz also went to Dr. Phillips High and is also Puerto Rican.
“He’s like a father figure — I see him like a stepdad,” Vazquez said. “I think it’s pretty cool — I’m almost following in his steps.”
For Ruiz, seeing Vazquez attend and compete for his alma mater — Vazquez is also on the Panthers’ swimming and diving team this fall — is a unique experience.
“It’s really neat for me to see him go to my former school,” Ruiz said. “To see him go to that school and hear his stories about his daily interactions at school, it’s a lot of fun.”
In the days leading up to the Junior Pan American Championships, which begin Sept. 28, Ruiz said Vazquez will be honing his dives that he already has learned and works on consistency. After this competition, though, the two will be working to add more to his capabilities as he readies for more international competitions and a shot to be an Olympian himself.
For now, though, the local teen is focused on the task at hand.
“I’m hoping to bring a medal to YCF and also to my beautiful island of Puerto Rico,” Vazquez said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]