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The World's Top Backstroker, Krayzelburg Keeps It In Focus -- February 25, 1998

From www.usc.edu - Many times, being confident is confused with being conceited. Senior Lenny Krayzelburg of the USC men's swimming team definitely does not fit the latter description, for he shows that as a champion he can maintain a degree of humility while still having faith in his abilities.

Krayzelburg, who started swimming at the age of 5, has every right to feel confident about his abilities in the pool. Currently, this five-time All-American is the world's top-ranked backstroker. Last month at the World Championships in Perth, Australia, he won both the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

"I still don't realize I'm a world champion," Krayzelburg said. "(USC head coach) Mark (Schubert) keeps telling me how great of an honor it is."

After bursting onto the swimming scene, the honors have been flowing in for this 22-year-old native of Odessa, Russia. Krayzelburg, who swam for Santa Monica City College before coming to USC, was named 1994 Athlete of the Year and California Junior College Swimmer of the Year.

Stu Blumkin, then head coach of the swim team at SMCC, realized Krayzelburg's potential and recommended that he train with Schubert.

"I took Lenny to one level," Blumkin said. "But I knew he needed to be with the better swimmers." "(Blumkin) said he had a backstroker that was really good and wanted to have Lenny train with us," Schubert said.

Krayzelburg ended up training with Schubert during the summer of 1994, and by the end of the summer Schubert took notice of Krayzelburg's abilities in the pool and offered him a scholarship. "When a coach first sees a swimmer in the water, you can tell if they have a feel for the water," Blumkin said. "First day I saw him in the water, I knew he'd be very special."

Krayzelburg notes how he tries to imitate one person in particular, Neil Walker of Texas. "He killed me on the 100 backstroke at last year's NCAAs. I've noticed the way he does underwater kicks, and I've tried to implement that in my swimming to get an edge on him."

Now, as Krayzelburg looks toward the 2000 Olympic Games, he knows that he will have to work even harder. However, working hard is nothing new for Krayzelburg. When he was 10 years old, he was already lifting weights in addition to swimming and running three to four kilometers a day.

"Every time I get into the pool I'm ready to work hard," he said. "I believe there's no point to come into the pool for two hours and just swim. You're pretty much wasting your time.

"I just go out there and try to win. Everyone remembers who wins, and no one remembers second place."