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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Pioneering Puerto Rican swimmer Ann Lallande dies at 72

Ann Lucile “Anita” Lallande

By The Star Staff

Ann Lucile “Anita” Lallande, who as a 15-year-old represented Puerto Rico in swimming at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and two years later won 10 gold medals at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in San Juan, died on Dec. 19.

According to an obituary in The Washington Post, Lallande, 72, died from complications following surgery to repair a broken leg.

Born on June 24, 1949 in San Juan to Joseph Gustave Lallande and Janice Hoover Lallande, Ann Lallande began swimming at age 8 at the Caparra Country Club, according to her Wikipedia page. At 13 she won five medals (two silver and three bronze) at the 1962 CACs in Kingston, Jamaica. Two years later, and a year after competing in her first Pan American Games, Lallande and Margaret Harding represented Puerto Rico at the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the island’s first Olympic swimmers.

Lallande still holds the record for most medals won by a Puerto Rican swimmer at the CACs, with 17. At the 1966 CACs in San Juan, she collected 12 medals -- 10 gold, a silver and a bronze. She won four gold medals in individual freestyle -- at 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters -- two more in the butterfly (100 and 200 meters) and another two in the backstroke (100 and 200 meters). She picked up two more golds, a silver and a bronze in relay events.

It was that dominant performance in particular that earned Lallande the nickname “La Lancha” (the motorboat).

After the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter free relay, Lallande retired from athletic competition. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marymount College in Tarrytown N.Y. before returning to Puerto Rico for a brief stint as a junior high school teacher in Condado.

After two years Lallande left the island permanently to pursue a career in journalism (as a staffer and freelancer), first in New York City and later in Alexandria, Va., where she and her husband, Robert C. Giffen III, a naval officer, started a family.

Lallande served for a time as a consultant to Carlos Romero Barceló, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner to the U.S. Congress from 1993 to 2001.

By that time she and her husband and two children had settled in Annapolis, Md., where Lallande was a longtime volunteer through her local Episcopal church and also taught citizen-preparation courses for Spanish-speaking adults at night. She was known as a spontaneous and passionate donor to victims -- both human and animal -- of natural disasters, according to her obituary.

Lallande is survived by her husband of 41 years, children Kyle and Nicole, three grandchildren and one sister.

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