Jewish Journal

Local Olympians

Jewish athletes have a history of competition filled with tragedy and triumph.

by Adam Wills

Posted on Sep. 14, 2000 at 8:00 pm

Deena Drossin qualifies for the Olympics at California State University in Sacramento.

Deena Drossin qualifies for the Olympics at California State University in Sacramento.

Besides Lenny Krayzelburg, three other American Jews with a Southern California connection are vying for the gold at the Olympic Games in Sydney: a runner who graduated from Agoura Hills High School, a 19-year-old from Valencia who will be the first person of African-American descent to swim in the Olympics, and an Irvine-based swimmer who loves to surf.

Deena Drossin
Age: 27
Events: 5,000-meter track, 10,000-meter track

Deena Drossin grew up in Agoura Hills, where she began running at 13. Heavily encouraged by her parents, Drossin picked up five state titles - two in track and three in cross-country - and competed in the Maccabi Youth Games while attending Agoura Hills High School.

After Drossin graduated with a degree in English (with an emphasis in creative writing and journalism) from the University of Arkansas, she made her home in the higher altitudes of Alamosa, Colo., where she is the only woman who trains under coach Joe Vigil. Since the move, she has won four national cross-country titles. Drossin set personal and Olympic trial records in the 10,000-meter this year.

Personal records: 5,000-meter - 14 minutes 51.62 seconds; 10,000-meter - 31 minutes 51.05 seconds.

Anthony Ervin
Age: 19
Events: 50-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle relay

Born in Burbank and raised in Valencia, where he attended William Hart High School, Anthony Ervin started swimming at 7 because his older brother was into the sport.

A sophomore at UC Berkeley, Ervin is a member of the university's Sprint Team 2000 and plans to major in cognitive science. As a freshman, Ervin won the NCAA title in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. Ervin will be the first person of African-American decent to swim in the Olympics. Ervin says he doesn't think of himself as being of a particular race, but hopes to be a role model for everybody.In the world long-course rankings, Ervin is third in the 50-meter.

World record: 50-meter freestyle (25-meter short course) - 21.21 seconds.

Jason Lezak
Age: 24
Event: 400-meter freestyle relay

Jason Lezak was born and still lives in Irvine. At age 5, Lezak joined the swim team at Irvine Novaquatics, where he continues to train.

Lezak, an avid surfer, also played basketball, baseball and was a high school All-American in water polo. Despite pleas to continue playing water polo while attending UC Santa Barbara, Lezak gave it up to concentrated exclusively on swimming. He graduated in 1999 with a degree in business.

Lezak won a gold medal at the 1997 World University Games and silver at the Pan Pacific Championships for the 400-meter freestyle relay.

Personal records: 50-meter freestyle - 22.62 seconds; 100-meter freestyle - 49.15 seconds

Adam Wills, Associate Editor , Jewish Sports Review contributed to this article. For more information, call (800) 510-9003 or visitjewishsportsreview.com

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