Lenny Moves On: An Exclusive Interview with Lenny Krayzelburg

By Phillip Whitten

Recently, world record-holder and triple Olympic champion Lenny Krayzelburg left Coach Mark Schubert and the Trojan Swim Club at USC, where he’d trained for nine years and achieved phenomenal success, and began swimming for Irvine Novaquatics and Coach Dave Salo.
I asked Coach Schubert how he felt about Lenny’s decision. He replied: “Lenny Krayzelburg is one of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever met in my life. What he accomplished is phenomenal. He gave me the best nine years any swimmer has ever given me, and I have tremendous respect for him. Whatever he does is okay with me.”
I then sat down to talk with Lenny to talk about his decision, his current training environment and his goals for 2004. Here is what he had to say…

SwimInfo: Lenny, you went through a second shoulder surgery recently. When did you get back into the water?
Lenny Krayzelburg: The first week in August. I spent about a month basically doing rehab in the water and just going through the motions as far as swimming was concerned. Gradually I built up my yardage from 1,000 to 4,000 a day.

SwimInfo: You dropped a bombshell recently when you decided to leave Trojan Swim Club and USC and Coach (Mark) Schubert and move up the road to Irvine Novaquatics and Coach (Dave) Salo. Why did you make that move?
Lenny Krayzelburg: You know, Phil, I used to tell people swimming was my job, and that was true in several senses. For the past few years it was a job – something I just did, but without the joy and passion I had previously. That’s all changed with Dave. I find his whole approach to training fascinating and I can’t wait to go to practice every day.

SwimInfo: When you refer to Coach Salo’s “whole approach to training,” what, specifically, are you referring to?
Lenny Krayzelburg: About 70 percent of what we do is done all out – at 200 race pace or better. We’re always training at the speed we race at.

SwimInfo: Leaving SC was a big decision. When did you decide to leave?
Lenny Krayzelburg: In August. I needed a change of scenery. I’d been at SC for nine years and it wasn’t fun anymore. I felt I needed to train differently if I was going to take my swimming to the next level.
I told Mark all this last year, and he responded by having me train under Larry (Liebowitz). That actually worked pretty well. With Mark I was doing the same things I did in 2000. That was fine back then, but I’m 28 now and I need to do something else if I want to improve – and I’ll have to improve to win in Athens.
Basically, I just wanted something new and when Larry moved to Oregon (as the new head coach at Oregon State University), I knew I had to move on too.

SwimInfo: How did Coach Schubert take your decision?
Lenny Krayzelburg: Very well. He was open-minded and very supportive. He agreed that his training was based on a distance perspective, while my perspective – and my races – is shorter. I am very respectful of him. All of my success at USC was due to Mark.

SwimInfo: Why did you decide to go with Coach Salo?
Lenny Krayzelburg: You know, since my injuries, I’ve become a student of sport – not just swimming, but sport in general. I’ve tried to understand why it is different athletes train the way they do. And I came to the conclusion: why not train at race speed?
Over the years I’ve observed Dave and his program, and saw that it has been very successful. He’s had lots of people, including many kids he developed as age-groupers, who have achieved great success, and his coaching philosophy is based on training at race pace or faster. This was all very appealing to me.
I also liked the workout environment. He has lots of post-grads, and all of us share a common goal: making the 2004 US Olympic team. It’s different from training with a college team, where the coach’s primary responsibility is seeing that his team does well at NCAAs.
Then too, as I got older, I realized I was drifting slowly away from the other swimmers at SC. That’s natural. The freshmen are 18; I’m 28. It’s natural for our interests to be different. Besides people like Erik (Vendt) and Lindsay (Benko), I felt I wasn’t really relating or interacting with the other swimmers.

SwimInfo: Was part of your motivation in going to NOVA the opportunity to train with Aaron (Peirsol)?
Lenny Krayzelburg: Yes, very much. But I told Dave, I understand that your primary allegiance is to Aaron. Actually, I’m not even sure whether Aaron will train here or in Texas this summer, but I would embrace the opportunity to train with him. It was great training with (1996 Olympic champion) Brad (Bridgewater) for four years.

SwimInfo: Speaking of training, how is your shoulder coming along?
Lenny Krayzelburg: Good. It’s not 100 percent yet, and I’m still doing physical therapy twice a week, but it’s coming along pretty nicely.

SwimInfo: Lenny, you said you and Coach Salo share a training philosophy. How would you describe that philosophy?
Lenny Krayzelburg: I’d say the key is getting used to feeling comfortable being uncomfortable. What I love about Dave’s training is that he gives you the opportunity to swim fast, to be good. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do, and how good you’re going to be.
Everyone here works hard. It’s a great training environment. But each swimmer has to decide for himself how hard he’s going to work.

SwimInfo: Who are some of the other athletes you train with now?
Lenny Krayzelburg: Well, in my lane we have Scott Tucker, Derya Buyukuncu, and Dan Shevchik. Dave Denniston is my dryland partner. I’m loving it!

SwimInfo: After winning three gold medals in 2000, what are your goals for 2004?
Lenny Krayzelburg: They’re very realistic. My first goal is to make the Olympic team. After that, to win the 100 and 200 back and swim on the medley relay. Obviously, it’s going to be tougher this time. But if I can stay healthy, I’m definitely going to be a major player.

SwimInfo: And after Athens…?
Lenny Krayzelburg: You know, Phil, I think 2004 will most likely be my last year. So I want to make it special. Fortunately, I’m in the right place to make it happen.

SwimInfo: Good luck, Lenny.
Lenny Krayzelburg: Thanks.

Lenny Krayzelburg - October 2002