Saturday, September 30|
Krayzelburg sets Olympic record
ESPN.com news services
SYDNEY, Australia - Swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg's
whole tumultuous life flashed before him as he stood on the
winner's podium Monday listening to the Star Spangled Banner
after winning Olympic gold.
The world champion added the Olympic men's 100-meter backstroke gold medal to his collection with a commanding victory Monday.
The Ukrainian-born American seized the lead on the first
length and held off the challenge from Australia's Matt Welsh
down the return length to win in an Olympic-record 53.72
Welsh took the silver in 54.07 and world championship
bronze medalist Stev Theloke of Germany collected an Olympic
bronze in 54.82.
The heavily-favored Krayzelburg finished just outside his world mark of 53.60
set at the Pan Pacific championships in the Sydney Games pool
in August 1999 when he set world standards in the 50, 100
and 200 backstroke.
Krayzelburg led all the way in bettering the old mark of 53.86
set by American Jeff Rouse at the 1992 Olympics. But he was .12 off
his own world record set in the same pool last year.
"You're measured in this sport by whether you win an Olympic
gold medal. I'm glad I got one," Krayzelburg said. "It's better
than anything I've ever done in my life."
He just didn't know who to thank first -- the Soviet
swimming system that gave him such a solid work ethic, his
Ukrainian Jewish parents who dared to dream of a better life or
"the good old U.S.A." for being the golden land of
Krayzelburg, clutching the gold that
had been a lifelong dream, said that on the podium, "I was
thinking back about everything that had happened to me over the
past 11 years."
When the family emigrated to the United States, none of
them spoke a word of English. His father Oleg took nine months
to find a job as a cook at a hospital. His mother Yelena also
got a job in the hospital working as a technician.
After his triumph, Krayzelburg said: "I shall be pretty
emotional when I see them. They have made a lot of sacrifices."
And he is repaying them now. As part of his six-figure
contract with Speedo, one of the provisions was that the
swimming costume manufacturer should fly his family to Sydney.
But in his moment of glory, Krayzelburg would not turn his
back on the past.
"Being in the Soviet system under Communism still played a
big part in who I am today as a person and an athlete. It stays
with you the rest of your life -- the work ethic, the
dedication. That was something I learnt back in the Soviet
Union when I was eight and nine years old.
At that age, he was swimming five hours a day, running and
doing weights. Hand-picked by Soviet officials, he was given
government sponsorship and a life of pure, intense and focused
training began at a very tender age. One motto has stayed with
him all his life from those days of iron discipline. "Body does
what mind prefers."
But then at the age of 13, his parents emigrated to
California and he had to start all over again. They had no car.
He took a bus for 45 minutes and then had to walk eight blocks
to train with the Team Santa Monica swim club.
He was going to school, taking a job after school to help
out the family finances. It was getting too much. He almost
gave up swimming but his father changed his mind.
"That wasn't an easy thing to do to move to another country
with absolutely no guarantees. They had the guts to make the
move," he said proudly of his parents.
Asked if he might become an inspiration for young
immigrants dreaming of a new life in the United States, he
"The great thing about America is that it gives you
opportunity. I think that is what it is all about. Everything
is possible and I am an example of that, I was willing to make
sacrifices and commit myself to accomplishing certain goals."
|Lenny Krayzelburg led the 100-meter backstroke from start to finish.|
Results -- Day 3
Quann stands and delivers on golden promise
Dutchman stuns Thorpe to win gold in 200 free
Malchow strong in 200 butterfly prelims