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Peirsol's progress to gold

July 04, 2004

Steve Virgen

There have been moments when it seemed a different story would be

written about Aaron Perisol.

There were sleepless nights this past spring when he would vomit

from mononucleosis, seemingly losing pounds by the minute.

There were mornings throughout his life when he could have slept

in, rather than go back to the pool and swim. Swim, swim and swim.

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At times in his life, Peirsol has been at a crossroads. Because

his path has been geared toward gold in the Olympics, choices have

been made, sacrifices, too, all of it leading up to the summer of

2004.

Aaron Peirsol's time has come. A new story is developing.

The former Newport Harbor High star swimmer will be in the U.S.

Olympic trials as the favorite in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke

Wednesday through July 14 in the newly built Charter All-Digital

Aquatic Centre in Long Beach. He is expected to be on the U.S.

Olympic team in both events, as well as the 400 medley relay,

competing in Athens, Greece in August.

Peirsol, 20, who recently finished his sophomore year at the

University of Texas, has signed a lucrative contract with Nike,

forfeiting his final two years of NCAA eligibility. He said he is

ready and wants to win three gold medals in Athens. The world record

holder in the 200 back said he has been strengthened by the support

of his community, family and friends.

The people Peirsol has learned from have made him into the man he

is today. While swimming is such an individualistic sport, Peirsol is

aware he would not get to the pinnacle of his profession without the

help of others. Still, he has had moments when he fought battles on

his own ... even as a child.

A new father

Peirsol doesn't like to speak about the time his family was made

up of his mother, Wella, and his younger sister, Hayley, who is also

competing in the Olympic trials. But it's a key factor that has

played into his maturation. Peirsol's father, Scott, did not play

much of a role in Peirsol's childhood.

When Peirsol was 6, he, his mother and sister, left their home in

Florida, retreating from their past and starting anew in Orange

County.

"It's safe to say that I don't have a relationship with my

biological father," Peirsol said. "The last time I spoke with him was

five months ago. I really don't like to talk about that."

Peirsol's mother said Scott tried to establish a relationship with

his son this year for the first time in a long time.

"To see his father show up again, I think, that was a painful

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