Thursday, 4 February 2010

Top 20 Swimmers of the 2000s - No.6 - Aaron Peirsol

Performance 2000-2009

Olympics - 3 Gold, 2 Silver
Worlds - 7 Gold, 1 Silver
WRs - 100 Back (2004-2009) (2009-2010), 200 Breast (2002-2007) (2008) (2009-2010)
World Swimmer of the Year - None

Losing out to Kitajima by the narrowest of margins is Aaron Peirsol. They are so close in my mind that they really could have been 5a and 5b. Peirsol has dominated men's backstroke over the last decade. Taking over from Lenny Krazelburg as the world's best backstroker, he became the fastest ever over 200m in 2002 and the fastest at 100m in 2004. Despite briefly losing both of his world records to other swimmers (Aschwin Wildeboer in the 100m and Ryan Lochte in the 200m), Peirsol showed what a tremendous athlete he was by regaining both records in 2009. Peirsol has had the added pleasure of being not only the first man under 53 seconds, but also the first man under 52 seconds in the 100 back and in the 200m Back he broke the 1:55, 1:53 and 1:52 barriers. He has done more than any man in the last decade to move men's backstroke onto what it is now.

Winning his first Olympic medal aged 17 in Sydney in the 200m Back, Peirsol was a prodigous talent. Ranking 20th in the world at 200m Back in 1998 at the age of just 15 with 2:01.39, he then moved up to 10th in 1999, aged 16, with 1:59.75.

Peirsol swept both the 100m and 200m Backstroke's at the 2004 Olympics and 2003 and 2005 Worlds. In Beijing, Peirsol won Gold in the 100m Back only for Ryan Lochte to thwart his efforts to win both backstroke events at back-to-back Olympics. With the return to textile suits, Peirsol must be considered favourite for both events again at London 2012.

Despite swimming at the highest level for a decade, Peirsol is still only 26 years of age and, worryingly for his rivals, has many good years ahead of him.

Having lost his 200m Back Olympic crown and World Record to Ryan Lochte in 2008, here is Peirsol's stunning reply from Rome 2009.

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