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Lenny Krayzelburg



20 May 2004
By Bob Schaller, USA Swimming

Article originally located at USA Swimming

Looking for someone to root for as Olympic Trials approach? Hereís an idea: Lenny Krayzelburg. The triple gold medalist from the 2000 Games has battled injuries to put himself in a position to compete for a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team. In this weekís ď20 Question Tuesday,Ē one of the big stories from the 2000 Games talks about that story, and whatís left to write in the final chapter Ė as far as swimming is concerned Ė with special correspondent Bob Schaller.

1 Since your post-Olympic media tour, your appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and your work on ESPN in the years following the Sydney Games, what else have you been up to since 2000?
Lenny: Well, I judged Miss America, did the David Letterman show, Hollywood Squares, The PyramidÖ Thatís what I can think of right now. Iím sure there are more!

2 Whatís been the biggest challenge in trying to get back into the shape you were in for 2000 and reaching those amazing times again?
Lenny: Injuries. I have had four surgeries since 2000, so thatís been the biggest challenge Ė to stay healthy and bounce back from injuries. I had two (surgeries) on my left shoulder, one on my left knee and a pretty serious sinus problem that required surgery in 2002.

3 Are you trying to reach those times again? Last time, your goal was an Olympic gold. Whatís the goal now?
Lenny: You know, my goal has not changed. I still want to win a couple of gold medals. Unfortunately, because of my injuries, Iíve not been able to be 100 percent healthy so Iím just going to focus probably on the 100 (backstroke).

4 You switched programs and are now working with coach Dave Salo Ė whatís that been like?
Lenny: I love it! Really, I absolutely love it. Dave has been so creative. Iíve never been around a coach so creative. I honestly believe he is a pioneer in this sport. The things heís done are different from anyone Iíve been around in the world of swimming. And he gets results. It is too bad more coaches donít think like he does.

5 Whatís the biggest change for you heading into these 2004 Trials compared to the 2000 Trials? And could you describe the pressure of the Olympic Trials?
Lenny: Iím obviously not going to be a favorite at the 2004 Trials like I was in 2000, so there arenít as many expectations. Thatís probably the biggest change for me. I like it, though. Itíll be a little different being an underdog and not having as much pressure. Iím ready for whatever situation is up. As far as the pressure of the Trials Ė it is one of the most stressful and pressure-packed meets you can go to. Maybe to some extent, there is even more pressure than the Olympic Games. Fortunately for me in 2000, I was swimming so well that I didnít feel a lot of pressure at Trials because I was so comfortable with how well I was doing. I knew if I swam my own race Iíd make the Olympic team. So for me Ė then Ė the Olympics were more stressful than the Olympic Trials. Now, though, the stress is to make the Olympic team. And as weíve seen, anyone who makes the U.S. Olympic team has good chance at medaling.

6 Youíve been back to Russia. What are things like there now? Is it getting better or worse for the average Russian citizen? Did it ever cross your mind to swim for Ukraine or Russia for 2004 instead of for the U.S.?
Lenny: Itís hard for me to say if itís getting better or worse, because when youíre only there two or three weeks, youíre still just a tourist, basically. From an outsider looking in, I think things are improving. But some might say otherwise. And yes, I could have chosen to swim for (my native country), but absolutely I would not. Iím at the point and level where I want to represent this country, the United States of America. This country has been great, and given me so many great opportunities. Besides being the best swimming country in the world, itís an honor to represent the United States.

7 Who is a young swimmer you are following right now?
Lenny: Well, Michael Phelps absolutely. His career has absolutely taken off. To be honest, I would have to say Aaronís (Piersol) success has been impressive. Iím very proud of Aaron. Heís had significant improvement year in and out. His consistency has been impressive. There is no question that lately Ian Crocker has impressed me. Heís put himself up there as one of the best the U.S. has ever had. These guys will really be the leaders for the U.S. team into these Olympic Games.

8 What are you going to do after the Olympic Trials and Olympics this year Ė will you try for 2008 and perhaps a final run, if you make it injury-free, for another Olympic Games?
Lenny: No, no no! This is it! Iím hanging by a really thin thread (laughs) and trying to hold on here for a little while longerÖ then itís time to move on!

9 What was it like to be sidelined while others took over the backstroke and made runs at, or took, your records?
Lenny: Listen, first of all, I believe records are meant to be broken. Unfortunately I didnít get to defend my world records and titles. But I look at it as part of sports. If itís meant for me to have these injuries, then thatís how itís going to be. That is sports: A young generation grows up, gets better and challenges you. Thatís what itís all about. And as a competitor, you have to like that challenge. Thatís a big part of why weíre involved and what drives us all.

10 What are you doing 10 years from now, and where are you living?
Lenny: Where am I living? Los Angeles, or on the East Coast, possibly New York. One of those two places. Iím doing a lot of real estate developing, I hope.

11 Whatís a place in America that you havenít visited that youíd like to see?
Lenny: Does Hawaii belong to America? (Laughs) Weíre going to training camp there, but I havenít been there, so Iím really looking forward to that!

12 You still seem so happy and pleasant. How important has that mindset been to help you through this trying time?Lenny: Like I said, itís just a part of sports. There are so many other things in life, and swimming is only a small part of it in the grand scheme of this thing we call life. This has been a big part of my life, so no matter how things turn out, it is not the end of the world. Other things are happening. Thatís why I keep things in the perspective.

13 At Nationals a few weeks back, you seemed close to being back. How close are you to being where you want to be heading into Olympic Trials?
Lenny: I think Iím getting there. I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me. The most important thing for me in the next 90 days is staying healthy. Iím still having some problems with the shoulder Ė itís back and forth. If I can stay healthy, I have no doubt I can compete with the best.

14 Could anything have prepared you for the fame and attention you received following the 2000 Olympics? How did you handle all of that so well?
Lenny: No! Absolutely not! No one can prepare you, unless youíve been faced with it before. It varies tremendously, from person to person Ė itís very individualized Ė in terms of how you handle it. Being realistic and humble, you have to realize it is ďhype of the moment,Ē and ultimately you are still the same person.

15 What are your memories now, almost four years later, when you look at your Olympic gold medals from the 2000 Games in Sydney?
Lenny: What I remember the most is throwing my body back when I swam the 100 (backstroke) in the finals. I could see my hand was going to touch the wall first. I vividly remember that, looking to the side to see (Australiaís) Matt Welsh Ė I could see it was a close race.

16 What gets you out of bed in the mornings on days when you just donít feel like going through all of this again, any more?
Lenny: You know what? Since Iíve been with Dave, I donít have those days. I get up in the morning with a smile on my face and a great attitude and excitement. It helps (laughs) to work out at 8 and not 5:45 a.m.!

17 Tell us one place we absolutely have to visit in your native homeland if we ever get the chance to go over to the former USSR?
Lenny: Moscow. And Odessa in the summer time. And St. Petersburg, no question about that. All wonderful, historical cities with a lot to do and see.

18 What has swimming taught you about yourself?
Lenny: Itís a very easy answer. ďIf itís going to be, itís up to me.Ē

19 What do you do to unwind?
Lenny: Just watch TV, spend some time with my fiancťe. Thatís about itÖ I relax and read.

20 What advice would you give to a young swimmer who is setting records and winning medals at all the meets she or he goes to? What would you tell him or her, as far as what to look out for, what to keep in mind, while all this is going on?
Lenny: Be humble. Stay with what got you there, because thatís ultimately what will take you to the top.

Article originally located at USA Swimming


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