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August 31, 2001

A Gold Star for America : A guru at one technology firm goes for the gold.

By Sanford Wexler

Also in this article

  • A Gold Star for America : A guru at one technology firm goes for the gold.
  • Page 2

Richard A. Korhammer understands pools of liquidity - from the heart of Wall Street trading desks to the very depths of Olympic-size swimming pools.

Korhammer, chief executive and co-founder of Lava Trading in New York, runs a service bureau that taps into many pools of Street liquidity, running the gamut from exchanges to ECNs.

Another sort of liquidity - as challenging as the Wall Street variety - happens to be running through his athletic frame. That's because Korhammer, 35, a high-achiever personality, is a former champion swimmer.

Korhammer's success story begins in the late 1980s, when he was a member of the U.S. swim team. He won two gold medals at the Pan American games in 1987 - one for the 100 meter breast stroke and the other for the 100 meter medley relay. Two years later, he won three golds at the Pan Pacific games, one for the 100 meter breast stroke, a second for the 100 meter medley relay, and the third for the 50 meter medley relay.

Olympic Prospect

Korhammer was doing so well that he almost made it into the 1988 Olympics. However, he came in third in the pre-Olympic trials. But it did not dampen - pardon the pun - his enthusiasm.

So what initially attracted Korhammer, who earned a Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree from Princeton University, to competitive swimming?

In brief - the incredible amount of discipline involved. "It takes a lot of dedication," he said. "When you start to excel in any activity, whether it's in sports or business, you start to see what you are capable of accomplishing."

Korhammer, born and raised in Easton, a small town in Pennsylvania, started swimming at the age of six. "I swam at a place called Stone's Crossing [in Pa.]. This was your average American summer watering hole with a pool," he said. "We had intensive work-outs about five times a week."

By age 12, Korhammer found that swimming was a sport he immensely enjoyed. More important, it was something that he was good at. Still, he did not imagine that he would ever become a champion. "I didn't think I would ever participate in national competitions," Korhammer recalled. "I didn't have a clue what it took to become world ranked or to win a national title."

In his junior year in high school, Korhammer was practically addicted to swimming. He trained with young swimmers from all across the country at the Jack Nelson Swim Camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The training camp, which is located at the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex, is run by Jack Nelson, who was on the 1956 U.S. Olympic swimming team and later became the U.S. women's team head Olympic coach in the 1970s.

Korhammer credits Nelson with dramatically improving his performance. "He helped me drop off a lot of time," he said. "I went from a 1:13 down to 1:07. This six second spread makes a big difference in swimming competitions."

By the time Korhammer completed a summer training program with Nelson, he had gone from being one of the nation's top 500 swimmers to ranking in the top 50.