By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 24, 1998 12:00 AM
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After winning the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter backstroke competition for the U.S. at the Sydney Olympics yesterday, a jubilant Lenny Krayzelburg declared, “This is Mount Everest. It’s great to know for the rest of your life you had this journey and it is completed. This is the most beautiful thing.” (The U.S. medal take, so far, is up to 18, giving America the lead Down Under.) Krayzelburg, who will turn 25 next week, immigrated to Los Angeles from the Soviet Union as a teenager in 1989, when his parents sought to escape anti-Semitism in their native country and the possible conscription of their son into military service. The athlete has said that although he often wanted to stop swimming, his father, Oleg Krayzelburg, would never let him — and it was his father who led the emotional cheers inside the Sydney International Aquatic Center yesterday when Krayzelburg reached the wall in an Olympic-record time of 53.72 seconds.