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Swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg is one of the most talented and successful Jewish athletes of all-time. He has four Olympic gold medals, two World Maccabiah Games gold medals, and is a US Nationals and World Champion. He also is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the founder of the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy. Read our latest Maccabi Memories feature with him below, where he discusses his experience at the 2001 World Maccabiah Games, as well as what it was like to be honored in 2011 as a Legend of the Maccabiah.

Lenny Krayzelburg on Getting Involved…

I first learned about the World Maccabiah Games when I participated in the JCC Maccabi Games back in ‘90 and ‘92 . Then, after 2000 when I won my Olympic gold medals, I felt like I wanted to do something that was beyond swimming. I thought it would be the appropriate time to go to the Maccabiah Games in 2001, to have an athletic and cultural experience and learn more about my Jewish heritage. I had never been to Israel, and at that time, I felt like participating in the World Maccabiah Games was the most important thing for me to do.

On Pre-Maccabiah Games Training…

Due to scheduling conflicts, I did not have the opportunity to participate in pre-Games training with the U.S. team. But I’m well-aware of the pre-Games cultural experience and the bonding, and I think that is such a huge part of the Games itself, and the uniqueness of being a part of Maccabi USA. It really exposes you to our Jewish heritage and culture, and the land of Israel. There are so many things, and when you’re touched with that experience, it sticks with you for the rest of your life. I truly believe that is just as important and just as impactful as the competition, if not more.

On the Maccabiah Games Social Experience…

I was in a little bit of a unique situation because I was coming out of the Olympic Games, and I was a pretty marquis name, so I was actually pulled out of a lot of the team events, and was doing a lot of face-to-face meetings with the host committee, and promoting the Games and doing events with Maccabi USA. So my experience was a lot different than what a lot of other players were going through. But nonetheless, during the competition, I spent all my time with the team. I stayed at the hotel with them, and ate at team dinners.

On Meeting Athletes From Other Countries…

There was a lot of interaction with athletes from other countries. During Opening Ceremonies, there’s a staging period where you hang behind the stadium in an area where everyone congregates, so there was a lot of interaction there. And obviously at the competition. No matter where you are, whether it’s the World Championships, the Olympics, or Maccabiah, there is a certain respect for all the athletes there, and what it takes to get to that level, and the commitment that each person has to be successful. That’s how I’ve always viewed it.

On Sightseeing in Israel…

Obviously the Western Wall was very special. And the Holocaust Museum was special, and sad. When I went back last year for the Games, I went back to those sights again. There’s so much history in Israel, and since it was my first time there in 2001, I tried to grasp as much as I could, and appreciate a lot of it.


On Maccabiah Games Highlights…

My personal highlight, and the thing that stands out the most for me, was carrying the U.S. flag into the Opening Ceremonies. You’re walking through a stadium where you have about 40,000 people, you have the Prime Minister of Israel there, and you’re leading our country into this event with so much pride. And you’re celebrating our heritage and roots, with so many people there from around the world in one place. It was really special.

It was also unique coming to the U.S. from another country and now having the opportunity to carry a U.S. flag proudly as a U.S. citizen. It’s been thirteen years, and I’m still talking about it like it was yesterday. It was certainly a memorable event that will forever be a highlight in my life.

On Being Honored as a Maccabiah Legend in 2011…

Obviously, there aren’t that many successful Jews in sports. I like to say that we’re about quality versus quantity. But the Games have been around for so many years, and there is a lot of history in it, so to be recognized as one of the best that ever was with the greatest Jewish athletes of all-time is a special thing. And also, setting a precedence and example for the next generation. You must live your dream, be persistent, and not give up, and ultimately, anything can happen. And I’m a perfect example of that.

A Recommendation for Future Participants…

It’s a tremendous cultural event. It brings you so much closer to our heritage, to Israel, and to the pride that Jewish people have around the world. It’s support for Israel, and I do think it is extremely important that we support Israel and show that solidarity. And also, it’s participating in a worldwide event. You’ve got athletes from all over the world coming in for an Olympic-style competition with a tremendous Opening Ceremony. It’s really a once in a lifetime experience.


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