Leonid “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. This soft spoken Russian, a product of the Soviet sports system, wanted to continue his swimming in America, training first at the Jewish Community Center and eventually at the University of Southern California and Trojan Swim Club with coaches Bruce Becker at the Westside JCC, Stu Blumkin at Santa Monica College and Mark Schubert at USC.
His first big international meet was the 1997 Fukuoka Pan Pacific Games, where he won three backstroke gold medals. Now at 6 feet 2 inches, 190 pounds, he was destined to become the world’s best backstroke swimmer. At the 1998 Perth World Championship, he won gold medals in the 100m and 200m backstroke. At the 1999 Sydney Pan Pacific Games he won all gold medals again. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Lenny became the first Olympic swimmer, since Rick Carey in 1984, to win both the 100 meter and 200 meter backstroke events at the same Olympics. He also led off the 4x100m medley relay gold-medal swim setting the 100m backstroke world record in the process.
Repeated surgeries to his left shoulder did not prevent him from being elected captain of the 2004 US Olympic Team and winning a fourth Olympic gold medal on the 4x100 medley relay team swimming in the prelims.
All totaled, Lenny set five world records, one each in the 50 meter, 100 meter and 200 meter backstroke and two short course records. He was the USA Swimmer of the Year in 1999 and 2000. 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. He has opened the LK Swim Academy to teach children to swim and his Foundation helps underprivileged kids to learn to swim.