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Peirsol Races to Victory in 200 Backstroke

March 30, 2000|LISA DILLMAN

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Aaron Peirsol was having problems breathing in the morning. It was only a small asthma attack, but he didn't want to alarm anyone. So Peirsol caught his breath and didn't say anything.

After the rough morning, he hardly could have predicted his stunning race Wednesday night in the National Swimming Championships at the King County Aquatic Center.

Peirsol, 16, of Irvine, turned in a performance bettered by only two swimmers in history in the 200-meter backstroke, winning in 1 minute 57.03 seconds. Lenny Krayzelburg of Los Angeles holds the world record in 1:55.87, set in August.

Peirsol, whose previous best in the event was 1:59.75, was exuberant when he spotted the time.

"I had an awesome start," he said. "I'm amazed. I came up ahead of everyone. That's not me. I'm the guy who comes back in the last 50, not goes out the first 50. Everything else just went from there."

Everyone else was fighting for second. Brian Walters, 24, of Washington, D.C., was second in 2:00.28.

Peirsol laughed when asked what the world-record holder's reaction would be when he found out about the time.

" 'I go 1:55,' that's what he's going to say," Peirsol said. " 'And I did that seven months ago.' "

But Peirsol is closing fast.

"All you have to do is look at him," Novaquatics Coach Dave Salo said. "He doesn't have any muscle on him. He blows in the wind. He's got a lot of potential.

"It's nice to see a kid like that win a race at nationals and be excited. You don't see that very often."

Kaitlin Sandeno of Lake Forest has been troubled by a sore left shoulder, but the ailment didn't stop her from finishing second in the 200 butterfly in 2:10.80. Margaretha Peddar of Great Britain won in 2:10.57.

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