Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview: Lenny Krayzelburg - Olympian and Gold Medalist

What an awesome two weeks at TGR. Last week we caught up with Jason Lezak and now fellow Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg. Both are a part of TheGreatRabbino.com new experience. A little background on Krayzelburg "Lenny Krayzelburg was born in Odessa, the Soviet Union. After spending his boyhood years in what is now the Ukraine, his family immigrated to the United States to escape Soviet Jewish anti-Semitism and the call of the Soviet army, settling in a Soviet Jewish enclave in Los Angeles. Lenny's story is the ultimate success story: the immigrant who came to a new land, worked hard, overcame obstacles and found exactly what he hoped to find, the American Dream. Krayzelburg is a four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming. He won his first gold medals in each of the three events he swam at the 2000 Olympic Games––100-Meter Backstroke, 200-Meter Backstroke and 4×100-Meter Medley Relay. He established new Olympic records in the 100m—53.72, and 200m—1:56.76. And, his lead leg set the pace for the 400m Relay gold medal victory that set a new World record––3:33.73."

 Here is our interview (recorded):  

1) What was it like competing in the Olympics?
Competing in the Olympic games was the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life. To know that you are good enough and you worked hard enough to compete against the greatest athletes in the world at the greatest sporting event in the world, it was a humbling and life long memory I will never forget. In addition, winning four Gold Medals at the Olympic games was beyond anything I have been able to put into words. Knowing you are on top of the world, knowing it took a lot of hard work, sacrifice and commitment and so many people played a large role and for it to come together at the most incredible event in the world; it is something I cherish and honor for the rest of my life.
2) What was the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career was, of course, winning the Olympic Gold Medal, but there were so many other incredible moments leading up to the Olympics that really stand out for me. And although the Olympics are the pinnacle of the sport, there are of course smaller victories along the way to get to the the Olympics. These are just as important in your success. I can tell you breaking three world records in 1999 at the Pan Pacific Championships was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. And that will stick with me as much as the Olympic Gold Medals.
3) Swimming seems to be a sport that Jews have done very well at (Mark Spitz, Jason Lezek, Dana Torres). Are you ever in touch with your fellow Jewish swimmers?
Jews in swimming is more about quality than quantity. We haven’t had many but the few that have had tremendous success. Anthony Ervin is another who won a medal in the 50 free style in the 2000 Olympics. I stay in touch with Jason on a regular basis, other than that I see Mark or Dara at certain events for Olympians or swimming community, so we do come across each other.

4) What have you been up to since your Olympic days?
Check out the new project both Jason and I are working on. http://www.championsswimtravel.com/about-thecamp.php
5) How impressive is what Michael Phelps has been able to accomplish?
Michael Phelps is definitely the greatest swimmer of all-time. You can make an argument he is the greatest athlete of all-time. And not just because of his accomplishments or the number of medals he has won, but the strong minded athlete that he is. To be able to perform at the highest level with so many expectations on you, over and over, that is the most impressive thing about Michael, that he has been doing it for so many years.
6) Looking back on your career; do you have any regrets?
Looking back on my career the only thing I really regret was that I wasn’t able to stay healthy throughout my whole career. I ran into a string of injuries after the 2000 Sydney games that never stopped. Starting with a shoulder injury, knee injury and then another shoulder injury, all of which required surgery. Every time I needed to start over to make it to the top. Injuries held me back from maximizing my full potential.
Thank you to Lenny! And swimmers check out his amazing new program!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Interview: Olympian and Swimming Great Jason Lezak

We have all seen him swim. Glued to our televisions over the past few Olympics, Jason Lezak has become one of the most decorated swimmers, Olympians, and Jewish athletes of all time. His participation in the Maccabi Games over the World Championships was a historic Jewish sports moment. We are really excited that Jason is now a part of the TheGreatRabbino.com team. Read the interview and sign up to bring him to your event. And swimmers everywhere sign up to go to Israel with the legend himself. Just click HERE.


1) Tell TGR about yourself.
I grew up in Irvine, California and began swimming at the age of five, played on the high school basketball team and become an All-American in water-polo. In 1998 I made an impact at the U.S. National Championships that year winning my first national title in the 100m freestyle and then went on to win a gold and silver medal at the 2000 Olympic Games. At the 2004 Olympic Games, I took home a bronze medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay and the gold in a world-record-breaking swim in the 4x100m medley relay. I also represented the U.S. in Israel at the Maccabiah games. It was a tough decision to make having to pass on the World Championships but this was more than just another swim competition.

2) You had such a historic Olympic career. What was the highlight?
The 2008 Olympics 4x100 free relay. We had lost the previous two Olympics after never losing before in Olympic history. To help bring back gold for USA was really special.

3) What was the best part of swimming with Michael Phelps? What makes him so unique?
To watch him prepare for a race and see his focus and determination. He is unique because not only does he do all the strokes at the highest level, he can do short distances as well as middle distances. Never has there been anyone who comes even close to him.


4) Is there any event you wish you had competed in but it didn't work out?
I wish I could have represented the USA at Maccabiah in 2001 and 2005 but unfortunately it interfered with World Championships. Since I was swimming professionally as my job I needed to go to the Worlds.


5) Are you good at other water sports; skiing, diving, water polo?
I was a All American water polo player in high school. Every year at UC Santa Barbara the coach wanted me to join the college team but I decided it was too tough to do both if I wanted to achieve my dream of making the Olympics one day.
6) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
I was brought up in a reform synagogue. I went to Hebrew school as a kid and had my Bar Mitzvah at 13.


7) What have you been up to since you last swam in the Olympics?
After I retired from swimming in 2012 I have been doing swim clinics across the country, swim camps around the world, motivational speaking, and other appearances. I love the sport of swimming and enjoy still being a part of it in a different way.
8) Anything else you want to share with the TGR world?
Going to Israel in 2009 was a special trip for me. I learned so much of it as a kid and always wanted to experience it. I always saw myself as Jewish and an athlete, but being able to compete in the Maccabiah games I for the first time saw myself different. Putting them together I was a Jewish athlete.

Thank you to Jason. Check him out at TheGreatRabbino.com!