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Peirsol finds silver lining

September 22, 2000

Tony Altobelli

Only an Olympic record-setting performance from world champion Lenny

Krayzelburg prevented Aaron Peirsol from shocking the swimming world

Thursday at the Olympic Games in Sydney.

The 17-year-old Newport Harbor High standout won the silver medal in

the men's 200-meter backstroke finals with a time of 1 minute, 57.35

seconds, just .59 seconds off the 1:56.76 pace set by gold-medalist

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Krayzelburg.

"We're still in a daze," Aaron's father, Tim, said by telephone from

Sydney. "Every day out here is better than the next. After last night, I

think we're starting to fall back to Earth."

It was the second-fastest time ever posted by Peirsol in his young

career, which will surely be paved with gold in future Olympics.

"They have this cheer in Australia where 18,000 people in the swim

complex start yelling, 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy!' " Tim

Peirsol said. "So before Aaron's final, I started yelling, 'Aaron Aaron

Aaron! Gold Gold Gold!,' The people around us must have thought I was

some crazy, psycho dad or something."

Peirsol got off to a slow start in the finals as he found himself

trailing not only Krayzelburg, but Australian Matt Welsh as well, after

100 meters.

Finally, Peirsol's patented kick came into play as he pulled ahead of

Welsh and started to reel in Krayzelburg.

With 50 meters to go, Krayzelburg said he felt his arms start to

stiffen and cramp up, but kept his focus and marched on.

Both Peirsol and Welsh swam a faster final 50 meters, but

Krayzelburg's lead proved too large to overcome.

"It actually was a less emotional situation than at the Olympic

trials," Tim Peirsol said. "We all were just glad to be there, and

throughout the events we learned that it was OK to get a bronze and it's

OK to get a silver."

Peirsol's parents, Tim and Wella, along with sister Hayley, were

finally able to see Aaron following a race for the first time in more

than two weeks.

"We called him the morning before the race and told him how proud we

all were and that we loved him very much," Tim Peirsol said.

Unfortunately, Aaron doesn't notch a podium finish in all events.

"We had to wait for him to take his drug test before we could see him.

He took so long to finally fill up his cup, he was the last one out and

the visiting time had expired," Tim Peirsol said. "We had to get a

special injunction from the Olympic Committee just to see him. We got to

see his medal and hold it. He's very happy with how things turned out."

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