Shalom Life | July 30, 2014

Interviews with 'Top Jews In Sports'- Lenny Krayzelburg

Day 2 features Olympic Gold Medalist Lenny Krayzelburg

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: September 2nd, 2011 in Culture » Society » Interviews

Interviews with 'Top Jews In Sports'- Lenny Krayzelburg

After the success of both our Top Jewish Artists and Top Jewish Models series, we have decided to bring you “Top Jews In Sports”. Over the next couple weeks, a new sports figure will be featured each day.

Since the previous format of asking all participants the same questions was so popular, we have decided to carry that over to this feature as well. Enjoy.

Day 2- Lenny Krayzelburg

Lenny Krayzelburg is a four-time Olympic gold medalist. He won his first gold medals in each of the three events he swam at the 2000 Olympic Games––100-Meter Backstroke, 200-Meter Backstroke and 4×100-Meter Medley Relay. He established new Olympic records in the 100m—53.72, and 200m—1:56.76. And, his lead leg set the pace for the 400m Relay gold medal victory that set a new World record––3:33.73.

Despite knee and shoulder surgeries that kept him out of most competition during the three years following the 2000 Games, Krayzelburg came back to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics and won a gold medal, his fourth, with the U.S. 4x100m Medley Relay team.

Krayzelburg won his first two U.S. national championships (100m & 200m) in 1996. Success at the 1997 NCAA Championships was his ‘breakthrough’, taking the 200m Backstroke title in the fourth fastest time in history.

The Ukraine-born Southern California backstroke champion has held five World records, setting three of them at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships: 50m Backstroke–24.99, 100m Backstroke–51.28, and 200m backstroke–1:55.87. World marks #4 and #5 are: the 200m Backstroke Short Course–1:52.43, and the aforementioned 400m Medley Relay at the 2000 Olympics.

At the 1998 World Championships, Krayzelburg became the first swimmer in 12 years to sweep both backstroke events at a World Championships or Olympics. In August 1999, at the U.S. Nationals, he set a new American record in the 200m Backstroke for the fifth time since 1997. Later that same month, he reset the World 200m mark, clocking 1:55.87 at the Pan Pacific Championships. At the same event three days earlier, he established a new World record in the 100m Backstroke–53.60.

Krayzelburg won numerous other titles, including gold medal victories in various events such as the 1998 Goodwill Games, 1999 and 2000 FINA World Cup meets, the Short Course World Championships, and eleven U.S. national titles in the 100m and 200m events.

The newly crowned three-time Olympic champion skipped the 2001 World Championships, opting instead to join the U.S. Team at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, where he won a pair of gold medals.

Following the Maccabiah, Krayzelburg had surgery to repair an ailing left shoulder. Recovery kept him from competing in 2002. A problem with his left knee the following year forced Krayzelburg again under the knife, causing him to skip the 2003 World Championships. Nonetheless, just prior to the knee surgery, he won the 2003 U.S. National 100m Backstroke title, his 11th career U.S. championship.

He had shown considerable swimming promise as a junior in Odessa, and continued his development in America, enrolling at L.A.’s Fairfax High School and the Westside Jewish Community Center. His first major age group competition was at the 1990 Maccabi Youth Games.

In 1993, Krayzelburg came under the tutelage of Santa Monica Community College swimming coach Stu Blumkin, who introduced him to University of Southern California swim coach Mark Shubert. The backstroke phenom was awarded a full USC athletic scholarship, majored in finance and investment, and graduated in 1998.

Krayzelburg was a finalist for United States Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year in 1998, and was chosen USA Swimmer of the Year each of the following two years. In 2001, he was inducted in to the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and USC Hall of Fame. He is a member of International Jewish Hall of Fame and in May 2011 Lenny’s swimming career was truly completed when he was inducted into International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Lenny is married and has twin daughters Daniella and Alexa.

For more information regarding JCCA, Westside and Milken JCC’s please visit www.jcca.org, www.westsidejcc.org, www.jccatmilken.org

Ashley Baylen (AB): Was there a moment when you realized this would be a career instead of a hobby or passion?

Lenny Krayzelberg (LK): Yes. For me the moment came actually a bit late in terms of age. I was about 19, when a coach at University of Southern California the summer club I was training with at the time told me “Lenny you can be the best backstroker in the world”

AB: In your weak moments, what food item do you allow yourself to pig out on?

LK: Honestly I could eat anything that I wanted due to my daily training regiment of 5 hours a day. That translated to burning about 4,000 – 5,000 calories. Having said that, I was still pretty conscious of proper nutrition and making sure that I eat well.

AB: When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

LK: I have twin daughters that are 5 years old, so any free time that I have I try to spend with them.


AB: Rapid fire. First thing that comes to mind. What your favorite movie?

LK: Once Upon A Time In America


AB: Band?

LK: U2

AB: Book?

LK: I have too many books to find a favorite. But I do like all books by Daniel Silva (spy novels)

AB: TV Show?

LK: Seinfeld

AB: Gadget?

LK: Blackberry

AB: Was there ever a moment when you wanted to switch careers? If so, what career would you have chosen?

LK: Not really, I was very driven with a single focus in mind to win Olympics and be the best in the world. However even during those times of success I was still realistic that sports will last only for so long, and I need to plan ahead beyond my athletic career. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I was laying a foundation way before I retired from swimming.

AB: What do you regard as your biggest achievement?

LK: Of course winning 3 gold models at the Olympics in Sydney 2000.

AB: You have unlimited funds to plan your dream vacation. Tell me about it. Who would you bring?

LK: Magic Johnson – because of his great success as an athlete and then being able to become a VERY successful entrepreneur after his career was over. Anyone that has survived Holocaust – just to hear from someone that survived the horrors and appreciated the simplest of things just to live another day. I think most us today take our freedom and daily things that we have for granted.

AB: Share something about yourself that we may not know.

LK: Maybe people don’t know and would be surprised but I rarely get in the pool to swim nowadays.

AB: What's your biggest fear?

LK: Losing my family… and also with so much bad social influence for young children today seeing my children taking a wrong path. Yes if course a lot depends on the parents and how we guide them, teach them, support them but unfortunately even all of this sometime is not enough.

AB: Can you provide a piece of advice for anyone considering entering the world of sports?


LK: My main advice would be to make sure that you are passionate about this sport; you are excited to work hard and push yourself to the limit EVERYDAY and always do it with a smile on your face. Most importantly realize that you will have ups and downs, but don’t give up during the downs, learn from them and it will only make you better in the long run.

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