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Aaron Peirsol breaks 200-meter backstroke record

The Olympic silver medalist finishes in 1:53.08, beating previous record holder Ryan Lochte and passing Lochte's mark of 1:53.94 set in Beijing.

July 12, 2009|Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Aaron Peirsol took temporary custody of the 200-meter backstroke world record. With all the controversy about the high-tech suits dominating the pool these days, the true owner may not be decided for a few more weeks.

Peirsol broke the record at U.S. nationals Saturday night, beating previous owner Ryan Lochte while lowering his second world mark in three days.

The Olympic silver medalist touched in 1 minute 53.08 seconds, bettering Olympic champion Lochte's mark of 1:53.94 set in Beijing.

"I'm elated I went that fast, but the real work is in two weeks," Peirsol said, referring to the upcoming world championships in Rome.

That's where Peirsol, Lochte and Ryosuke Irie of Japan are expected to decide who truly owns that record.

Irie swam 1:52.86 at a meet in Australia on May 10, but the sport's world governing body refused to ratify the mark because he was wearing a suit deemed illegal by FINA.

"That's a great thing to have that for the next two weeks, but I'm well aware that's probably not even the world record right now," said Peirsol, who wore the once-banned Arena X-Glide. "There's a Japanese kid who went 1:52 in pretty much the same thing I'm wearing now."

Having broken two world records in three days, the low-key Peirsol made a rare boast.

"I feel like if I race the way I can, I don't think he can touch me, I don't think he can beat me," he said of Irie. "But he's going to be very good in the future when he tacks on about 30 pounds. He's a kid, he's about 5 foot 6 and 130 pounds. He has probably the most beautiful backstroke I've ever seen."

Peirsol reclaimed his 100 back world mark with a time of 51.94 seconds Wednesday.

Wearing a Speedo LZR in the 200, Lochte was under his world-record pace in the opening 50 meters before Peirsol took over for good.

"I went out too fast in the first 50," said Lochte, who donned oversized Clark Kent-like black-rim glasses even though he has 20/20 vision. "If I had approached it differently, I would've had a better shot. He had a good swim, but he's still my friend and we're still going to talk about surfing."

Peirsol dipped a full second under the mark after 150 meters.

"The last 50 really hurt, so I know the other two guys really, really hurt," he said, referring to Lochte and third-place finisher Tyler Clary, who made the team for worlds in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley.

Lochte took second in 1:54.21. He and Peirsol will swim the event in Rome.

Peirsol dominated the 200 back from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when he finished second, until finally losing the race and his world record to Lochte at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne.

"It's been a few years since I really felt good racing," said Peirsol, who turns 26 before the world meet begins. "I finally feel pretty good. I want to go faster. Ryan has pushed me quite a bit the last couple of years."

Cullen Jones lowered the American record in a 50 freestyle swim-off, touching in 21.41 seconds. That bettered the previous record of 21.47 set by Garrett Weber-Gale at last year's Olympic trials.

He edged Weber-Gale in the one-on-one race for the second spot in the event at worlds this month. Weber-Gale was clocked in 21.70.

"Swimming needs to do more of it. There's so much fun, so many people like to watch it," Jones said. "I don't know how many times since Thursday people came up to me like, 'I can't wait for Saturday. I can't wait to see that race.' It's cool to see that much enthusiasm about swimming."

Jones' time was faster than what Nathan Adrian swam in winning the 50 on Thursday night, when Jones and Weber-Gale tied for second at 21.55. Adrian won in 21.52.

Olympians Jones and Weber-Gale had already qualified for the team in the 400 freestyle relay.

Dara Torres already qualified for her first world team since 1986 in the 50 free. The 42-year-old Olympian made a run at the 50 butterfly world record but fell short and settled for lowering her American mark in 25.50.

Eric Shanteau completed a successful comeback meet, winning the 200 breaststroke 10 months after being declared free of testicular cancer that was diagnosed just before last year's Olympic trials.

He won in 2:08.01, bettering the American record time he set in the morning heats. Shanteau, who wore an Arena X-Glide, also will swim the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM in Rome.

Chloe Sutton, a 17-year-old who competed in the 10-kilometer open water event at the Beijing Olympics, is going to the world championships in another pool event. She won the 800 freestyle in 8 minutes 29.34 seconds. She also won the 400 free.

Dana Vollmer qualified for her third individual event in Rome by winning the 100 freestyle, capping a successful meet nearly a year after she failed to make her second Olympic team.

She won in 54.00 seconds, just ahead of Olympian Amanda Weir in 54.03.

Olympic champion Rebecca Soni completed a sweep of the breaststroke events, winning the 200 in 2:20.38, the fastest time ever on American soil.

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