By Aaron Blevins, 7/26/2012
Four-time Olympic gold medalist has high hopes for Team USA
Lenny Krayzelburg will be in London for the Olympic Games this year, basking in the nostalgia that is afforded to four-time gold medal winners as he roots on Team USA swimming.
Krayzelburg, a Fairfax High School and USC graduate, retired from swimming six years ago. Only eight years removed from receiving the last of his gold medals, he continues to manage his swim academies and use his Olympic success to further his personal goals.
“I enjoy what I do,” Krayzelburg said. “Obviously, there’s nothing like being in professional sports and being on top of your game, but that never lasts forever.”
He runs the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy in Los Angeles and San Fernando, and franchises of the company have begun opening on the East Coast. Krayzelburg said he is proud that his professional success did not stop during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
“That’s gratifying — that I didn’t waste my talent,” he added.
Krayzelburg won three gold medals in the 2000 Summer Olympics and one in the 2004 Summer Olympics. In 2000, he won the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and was one of four USA swimmers to take gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay. He set new Olympic records in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke, which have since been broken. In 2004, after shoulder and knee surgeries kept him out of most competitions for three years, he returned to win his fourth gold medal with the 4×100-meter medley relay team.
A spectator now, Krayzelburg is pleased with the state of USA swimming. He spoke highly of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, saying that they are two solid leaders who are the best in the world.
“It’s as good as it’s ever been,” Krayzelburg said. “It’s got a really good mix of young talent as well as some experience.”
He said he is happy for the team, which has its fair share of compelling stories. However, Krayzelburg doesn’t get too emotional while watching his successors compete. He said he sometimes forgets that he was in that same position. But, on the other hand, he doesn’t get tired of talking about his experiences.
“Obviously, it comes with the territory,” Krayzelburg added. “That will always be with me.”
The Ukraine native said he has convinced himself that he no longer wants to compete. Although, that doesn’t keep him from reminiscing about earning his gold medals and having the rare distinction as being the fastest human in the world in a particular event.
“I don’t even know if the word ‘amazing’ would ever describe it,” Krayzelburg said, adding that the experience was incredible and humbling. “It is definitely something that is special. …It’s a special fraternity being an Olympian, let alone an Olympic gold medalist.”
His post-Olympic endeavors, though, may be even greater, as they’ve had a bigger impact on a number of young lives, he said. In 2005, Krayzelburg donated $100,000 to reopen and renovate the pool at the Westside Jewish Community Center, which was once his home away from home. His academy has since been teaching young people water safety and offering swimming lessons at that location. Krayzelburg also runs The Lenny Krayzelburg Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers swim lessons to inner-city youth.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said, adding that he is fortunate to have the opportunity to give back. “We do make a difference in young lives.”
While Krayzelburg is enjoying his professional career, his retirement from competition has allowed him to pick up new hobbies, such as tennis, soccer and basketball. Accustomed to being a solo act, he said team sports can be frustrating, as he is just as competitive now and he was in 2000.
“I don’t like to lose,” Krayzelburg added.
A former West Hollywood resident, he now resides in New York, though he spends a week or two per month in Los Angeles. Krayzelburg is married with two twin 7-year-old daughters, Daniella and Alexa, who have taken up swimming, tennis and gymnastics.
He said he doesn’t keep in touch with his Team USA teammates as much as when they were competing. However, Krayzelburg is likely to encounter a handful when he arrives in London.
“I’m excited about the Games — excited to watch swimming, obviously,” he said. “There is nothing like the Olympics.”