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Fit Again, Krayzelburg Looks to Athens/Krayzelburg healthy again, targets Athens


Published: February 1, 2004

EAST MEADOW, N.Y., Jan. 31 — Except for Adolph Kiefer of generations long gone or John Naber of a more modern era, Lenny Krayzelburg may well be, or may be on his way to becoming, the best male backstroke swimmer ever. And the most battered.

At 28, he owns 3 gold medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 3 world championships, 4 world records, 8 world No. 1 rankings, 13 American titles and one insistent injury that has become known as "Lenny's shoulder."

Krayzelburg's life story is well known: born and reared in Odessa in Ukraine; immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1989; became an American citizen in 1995; and has been an American swimming icon since. In 2000, People magazine listed him among its 50 most beautiful people.

But since his Sydney heroics, that worn-down left shoulder has limited his racing and success. Now he feels on course to be healthy again in time for the Athens Olympics in August.

Krayzelburg is competing here at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in a 32-nation World Cup short-course meet. On Friday, when the two-day meet began, he finished second in the 100-meter backstroke in 52.43 seconds to Randall Bal of Fair Oaks, Calif. (52.08). On Saturday night, he finished third in the 50 backstroke in 24.48 seconds, behind Neil Walker (23.77, the fastest ever in the United States) and Bal (24.07).

Krayzelburg is a University of Southern California graduate, personable and well spoken. He is also patient, which has helped carry him through his physical woes.

"Basically it's wear and tear," he said in an interview. "I've been swimming competitively since I was 5."

A magnetic resonance imaging exam showed a tear, and in August 2001 he had surgery. For a time, the shoulder held up. In May, the injury flared up.

"Same ache, same doctor, same tear in the same spot," he said. "A month later, same operation. It's O.K. now, not 100 percent, and the strength is down. I'm in constant rehab, three times a week. It keeps me from getting worse, from reinjuring it. I'm not where I was, but it's good enough to get me through training and competition."

That has changed, too. For nine years, Krayzelburg was coached by Mark Schubert, who believes in high-volume training. He switched in September to Dave Salo, who coaches the Nova club in Irvine, Calif. Now, Krayzelburg said, "I'm doing a lot less distance and a lot more quality work, which is easier on my shoulder."

Salo said Krayzelburg was growing confident. "He's doing only 4,000 or 5,000 meters a day," Salo said. "He's doing a lot of leg work, and he's building his upper body with weights. It's all going well."

Krayzelburg plans to swim in the national long-course championships from Feb. 10 through 14 in Orlando, Fla. Then come the Olympic trials July 7-14 in Long Beach, Calif., and, if he qualifies, the Olympics. The United States can enter only two swimmers in each Olympic individual race, and Krayzelburg will face stiff competition from Aaron Piersol and Bal, among others.

Negatives and unknowns aside, Krayzelburg said, he is excited.

"I thrive under pressure," he said. "I like to think that with my experience at this level and my success, I have a mental edge. There's not so much pressure on me as the last time. I won't even be the favorite, but if I stay healthy I think I have a good shot at the gold medals again."


JENNY THOMPSON won four women's finals over the 25-meter course: two Friday and the 100 freestyle in 53.63 seconds and the 50 butterfly in 26.04 on Saturday. ED MOSES won the 100 breaststroke Saturday by 10 feet in 57.96 seconds, the world's fastest time this year, completing a sweep of the men's three breaststroke finals. GABRIELLE ROSE won the women's 50 breaststroke in 31.34 seconds and the 100 individual medley in 1:00.54. JASON LEZAK captured the men's 50 freestyle in 21.42 for his second victory in two nights. SACHIKO YAMADA of Japan won the women's 400 freestyle in 4:01.36 for her second victory. After winning two finals Friday night, CHAD CARVIN finished second and fourth in two finals Saturday.


Article originally located at New York Times or The Arizona Republic

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