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Krayzelburg has 'amazing experience'

By Karen Allen, USA TODAY 19 July 2001

Lenny Krayzelburg set a meet record (55.24 seconds) in the 100-meter backstroke and won his Maccabiah Games debut by an unheard of 5-second margin. But that wasn't his purpose for skipping the prestigious World Championships in Japan and traveling instead to Israel for the Olympic-style competition for Jewish athletes.

"I wanted to see Israel and learn about the culture," says Krayzelburg, who won three gold medals in last summer's Olympics. "It's been an amazing experience. I got to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies, and I was very honored to be able to do that."

Hours before Krayzelburg and the rest of the U.S. contingent of about 350 athletes marched, two Palestinians died about a half-mile away when the bomb they were carrying apparently intended for the ceremonies exploded. "I didn't know about that, but I wasn't worried," Krayzelburg says. "There was an army of about 1,000 security personnel around the stadium. Things are very tight."

Krayzelburg's parents moved to Los Angeles from Ukraine in 1989 when he was 13, leaving in part because of anti-Semitism. They received permission to emigrate by saying they planned to go to Israel.

But Krayzelburg had never actually been to Israel, and he seized this opportunity despite the violence that has killed more than 600 people since peace talks broke down in September.

"You see how people just go on with their lives despite the hard times, and you get into that way of just going about your business," Krayzelburg says.

He has been cautious, staying mainly in his hotel in Haifa, about 2 1/2 hours north of Jerusalem. But he did tour Jerusalem, where he visited holy sites, the parliament and a museum dedicated to Jewish children who were killed in the Holocaust.

"It's been a really emotional thing for me to see how the people stick together, fight for each other, care about each other and their gratitude to us for being here. It makes me proud to be Jewish," he says.

Krayzelburg will swim his final race, the medley relay, today, then spend 9 days in Odessa, Ukraine, where he still has family and friends. His departure from Israel will be a relief to his parents, Oleg and Yelena. "They call about three times a day, and sometimes my dad calls about every hour," Krayzelburg says.

When he returns home, he'll have arthroscopic surgery to repair a muscle tear in his left shoulder.

Krayzelburg says he isn't sure when he hurt it, but it has been bothering him since a meet in Vancouver in late May.

He'll be in a sling for about 3 weeks and says doctors estimate he will need 6-12 weeks of rehabilitation before he begins serious swimming again. "That's a long estimate," he says. "I don't believe it will really take quite that long."

World Championships: John Flanagan of Honolulu finished fourth in the 10-kilometer open-water swim at the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, on Wednesday, and the duet team of Becky Martin (San Jose) and Lauren McFall (Sunnyvale, Calif.) qualified fourth for the finals in synchronized swimming.


Article originally located at USA TODAY

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