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Lenny Krazelburg Checks In From Israel

David Zane

Lenny Krayzelburg, three-time Olympic gold medalist in Sydney, checked in with the media during a conference call as he was participating in the Maccabiah Games in Israel. Krayzelburg discussed his experiences at the games; his experiences in touring Israel; as well as his plans for the rest of the year.

Opening statement:

Well, Iím almost done with the games here. Iíve got one more day, tomorrow night I have the relay, but so far it has been a very interesting experience out here. Iíve had a really good time. The most exciting thing so far Iíve done, I got a chance to carry the United States flag at the opening ceremony, I was the flag bearer. So, that was an exciting thing for me. I was really honored to have that opportunity.

On tension and violence and how it has affected his focus:

Well, we do pay some attention, obviously, reading it in the paper all the time, watching the news, people talk about it. But, when you look at the Israeli people and the way they just go about their life every single day, not even thinking about it, you kind of get into that lifestyle as well and you just go about your everyday business. I donít think it has really affected my preparation or my swimming out here at all. But, you are trying to be careful with where you go and what you do and for the most part I have tried to be in the hotel and not going anywhere without people that know whatís going on here with the locals.

On the failed bombing attempt near opening ceremonies:

I wasnít aware that the bombing occurred during the opening ceremony, and one of the reasons I probably wasnít aware was because security was absolutely amazing. Iíll tell you, they had a thousand person army there surrounding the stadium and probably a few miles around the stadium. And the only access that spectators could get to it [the stadium] was to park their cars about three miles away and take buses to the stadium. So I wasnít really worried about that because you could see that the security was amazing.

On his shoulder injury:

And regarding my shoulder, itís the same as it was when I left. Itís not better and itís not worse. The doctor told me it wasnít going to be any worse. But, I donít have a specific reason or timeframe when I hurt the shoulder. It started to bother me after the Vancouver meet, sometime in the end of May. And unfortunately, I only got a chance to really figure out what was happening probably three days before I left for Israel. I have a torn super labrum in my left shoulder and I have to have arthroscopic surgery, which will be on the 31st of this month, July.

On rehab and when he figures to get back in the water:

Well, the doctor said that itís going to take about 6-12 weeks. I mean that was really was a big kind of estimation. He doesnít think it will probably take that long. It depends how well I feel. The first three weeks I will be in a sling, so I wonít be able to do a whole lot of things, but after three weeks I can start working on getting my flexibility back and some strength back into the shoulder. So, by then I will be kicking in the water and, hoping if that wonít really bother me, I can start swimming at least a couple of thousand within six to eight weeks. And I already talked to my conditioning coach and weíll be doing some dry land training when I get out of surgery.

On his experiences on this trip to Israel:

Well, Iíll tell you, Israel is really a beautiful country. Iíve never really imagined, how nice this country is, but being in the Mediterranean Sea there are a lot of coastal towns here. Itís really beautiful. And what amazes me the most is half of it is, right now, is desert. So, there is so much else here to build and I canít see and, I mean, I canít even imagine how much bigger this country could be in 10, 15, 20 years from now. But, the only sad part is that this conflict thatís going on with the Palestinians at all times and you never know whether there ever is going to be an end to that and that kind of stalls a lot of the expansion and people coming to this country and moving to this country. And I think that also takes away from the beauty of this country because it truly is an amazing place.

On Israeliís rallying around the Maccabiah Games:

Yeah, I do think that the Israeliís have rallied around it. Everyone is talking about it on the radio and TV and a lot of Israeliís have come up to me and expressed their gratitude for me being here and showing their support, you know coming to a country in such a hard time for them. And they donít keep it a secret that itís a hard time for them and itís a lot of concern for them at this time. But like I mentioned before, on the other hand, they go about their daily business and their daily lives. And you kind of, well you have to, I mean, you canít worry about it all the time you have to live your life as well and most of the stuff obviously happening around the West Bank and the territories to the south and really far up north. But, with the suicide bombings, that is the main concern that Iím going to have being in the country.

On this experience making him a more spiritual person:

I havenít felt any more spiritual than I did before, but I do think I have a little bit more pride for being Jewish, because being here really shows how much Jewish people here stick up for each other, and fight for each other, and represent each other and feel about each other, that really has stood out amazingly here. And with the people that live here as well as the way they treat the tourists and like us, for example, as a family. And that has been a very unique experience and I am very proud of being part of this and part of being Jewish. On his parents feelings on being over there:

[They call me] like three times a day. I talk to them about three times a day. Yeah, my dad sometimes calls me every hour. Well, heís gotten a little sick, my dad, so heís on absence, legal absence from work, so heís bored at home so thatís why he calls me every hour. But, yeah, they obviously, my mom called me a few times during opening ceremonies and afterwards just to make sure I got home safe because it was a long drive from Jerusalem to Haifa. Itís about two and a half hours. But, I guess it seems like theyíve settled in and are at peace with me being here and excited for me.

On location of Haifa:

Thatís correct. Northwest. Yes.

On sightseeing:

Yes, actually yesterday, because I only swam on Sunday and then I donít swim until Thursday, I had a few days. And yesterday they kind of arranged a tour for me to go to Jerusalem and I went to the Wall there and I got a chance to go to the Holocaust museum. They have a beautiful Holocaust museum there; it was really a special place, an emotional place, there. And I also got a chance to go to Knesset, their Parliament. Knesset, I think thatís what they call it, and met a couple members of the Knesset there. It was really nice. A lot of people know here who I am and pretty much everyone, because Iíve been in the papers everyday here and thereís also big advertising signs on the streets here, all around Israel with my picture on it.

On being poster boy of the games:

Yeah pretty much, seriously. Theyíve used my picture as a poster person for the games. Everyone asks me how does it feel to see your face every other flag pole here. Well it [feels] different. I guess itís never happened before, but I donít know. Itís hard seeing yourself all around the city, but you donít think about it I guess. Itís a weird feeling, though.

On breaking record for Maccabiah games and what it means to him:

It was a record. I had a pretty good swim. I was actually very happy with my swim, I didnít think I can go that fast because I havenít done a whole lot of training in the past month. But, to be honest with you, I did not really come here to swim fast or to prove myself here. I wanted to enjoy Israel and learn about the culture and take part in this event and thatís what Iíve done here. So, it doesnít have any really, really special feeling for me, to be honest with you.

Clarifying on when he swam 100 back:

Yes well it was on Sunday, so that would bethe 15th. Then [I have] the relay tomorrow [Thursday].

On the level of competition:

Unfortunately, the level of competition here is not very high, but like I said again, I wasnít really, Iím not here to prove myself or try to see how many people I can beat. Iím just really here to enjoy the whole atmosphere.

On the crowds:

Well, the pool here itís a decent pool, but it probably seats I donít know, two-three hundred people. The day when I swam it was packed, like a lot of people just came in and just were standing watching me swim. But, in terms of crowds, it [the Maccabiah Games] doesnít necessarily draw a lot of people. And I donít think thatís only for swimming.

On his timetable for return to elite level competition:

Well, I really wanted to, before my injury, I wanted to get ready for the U.S. Open in December and try to swim a fast shave time and see whether that would put me in the world rankings this year. But, unfortunately, now I donít think I will be ready by then. I am hoping though, that I can be ready to somewhere, somehow, swim a meet where I can qualify for Short Course World Championships in Moscow, which will be in April. I think that would be very special for me, going back to Russia and swimming for the first time ever in Russia at a pretty big competition.

On plans to visit Ukraine after Maccabiah Games:

No, Iím leaving, well if everything goes well, Iíll leave on Friday to Odessa for about nine days.

On who he will be visiting in Ukraine:

Right, well I have an uncle who still lives in Odessa, my momís brother with his family. But, a lot of friends that Iíve kind of kept in touch and I havenít seen in a long time and also my parentsí friends that through the years Iíve become friends with as Iíve gotten older. But, there are quite a few people that I can see. But also, it is a coastal town, itís in the Black Sea, beautiful beaches, and itís good for me to relax and get away a bit and take some time to myself for about a week.

On being a recognizable person in the Ukraine:

Well, within the people that are within the Jewish community there, they would probably know Iím there. Yeah, within, the kind of Jewish community, they would probably know Iím there and it might be a little bit crazy. But, overall, I guess people knew me, but I donít think they, right now, they would reallyÖI would be surprised if a lot of people remember who I am there. Just because obviously, I wasnít around that much because I still represent America now, so itís a little bit different for them.

On the most interesting thing heís experienced outside of athletic competition:

Well, definitely the tour of Jerusalem yesterday and going to the Holocaust museum. It was truly an experience, very emotional. You know there was one particular exhibit there that there are two, I canít even remember the two individuals that have donated to build this memorial to a million and a half Jewish kids that died in the Holocaust. It was two people that were in concentration camps and their four year-old child was killed and theyíre wealthy people that live in America and they donated, I think they are from Chicago, and they donated the money to build that memorial for all the, you know, kids that were killed during the Holocaust. It was truly and amazing place and it was a very emotional place for me because Iíve, over the years, taken an interest in the Holocaust and read different books and stuff. I tell you, it goes to my heart.

On his life changing since Sydney Olympics:

Well, I wouldnít say that [my life has changed that] dramatically. It was different for the first few months, but it has calmed down a little bit. Although, when I travel here everyone really knows who I am and when I did a couple of meets in Europe a lot of people recognized me. And in fact, in America a lot of people still do recognize me, especially if I go to sporting events, which really does surprise me. I did not think they would remember an Olympian after eight, nine months, but people do. Itís been great. Iíve really enjoyed everything that Iíve had an opportunity to do, and obviously Iím hoping I can do it again in three years.

On most important thing heís learned since heís been in Israel:

Well, like I mentioned, the unity of this country and the Jewish people, here, at least. How they stick up for each other and have the love for each other and represent each other, and obviously, especially during these hard times here, they really care about each other, thatís whatís been so amazing and thatís what really makes me proud of being a Jew.

David Zane

Article originally located at USA SWIMMING

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