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Swimming: Peirsol qualifies second overall in 200 back prelims

September 20, 2000

Tony Altobelli

SYDNEY, Australia - Aaron Peirsol has taken the first step on the

road to an Olympic medal following his preliminary performance in the

200-meter backstroke Wednesday in Sydney.

The Newport Harbor High standout, qualified for the semifinals with a

1:59.10 in his heat of the prelims, second only to fellow-American Lenny

Krayzelburg, who posted an Olympic-record time of 1:58.40 in another

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heat.

The Australian duo of Cameron Delaney (1:59.61) and Matthew Welsh

(1:59.76) posted the next-fastest times behind the American twosome.

The top 16 swimmers in the six heats moved on to the semifinal races,

which took place at 1:30 local time this morning. The top eight from the

semifinals move on to Thursday's finals.

Both Peirsol and Krayzelburg were on cruise control for the prelims,

as the times would indicate. Both are the only ones to ever clock under

1:57.0 in the event.

To show the confidence of the two, both were not shaven for the

preliminaries and Krayzelburg even swam without his cap, similar to his

preliminary performance in the 100 back, which he took the gold medal.

With his parents Tim and Wella and his sister, Hayley, in the stands,

Peirsol led his heat from start to finish. Italy's Emanuele Meresi, who

finished seventh overall, was second behind Peirsol with a 1:59.92.

In Peirsol's case, being a wide-eyed 17-year-old has come in handy.

All the Olympic pressure and stress that comes with the medals and glory

hasn't really fazed him.

"I feel like right now the meet is almost downhill for me," Peirsol

said, comparing making the Olympics to competing in the Olympics. "I'm

feeling like there's an elephant off my back."

It was the same type of response Peirsol gave following the U.S.

Olympic swimming trials, in which he finished runner-up to Krayzelburg in

the finals with a 1:57.98.

Peirsol is the first world-class swimmer to come from this area since

world breaststroke champion John Moffet competed at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Moffet tore a leg muscle in the preliminaries and finished fifth

in the 100-meter event.

With a solid swim in the semifinals, Peirsol and Krayzelburg will once

again swim side by side in a major event. Odds are Krayzelburg will be in

Lane 4 and Peirsol will be in Lane 5.

Krayzelburg, one of swimming's most dominant participants, has only

lost once in the 200 backstroke from 1997-2000 and that was to Peirsol at

the Janet Evans Invitational on July 14.

In that race, Peirsol trailed Krayzelburg by over a second and a half

with 50 meters to go, but rallied to stun Krayzelburg as well as the

overflow crowd at the USC Swim Complex.

Peirsol currently holds the second-fastest time ever in the event with

a 1:57.03 and will probably have to better that time if he looks to upend

Krayzelburg, whose 1:55.87 is the world's record.

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