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Peirsol renews passion in triathlon

TRIATHLON: Former Newport Harbor High standout burned out in freestyle swimming, but has found a new love.

September 04, 2008|By Steve Virgen

Water is a symbol for cleansing, for renewal. In Hayley Peirsol’s life, she knows this much is true.

Somehow, even after a burnout from swimming, water remains prevalent for Peirsol. She has a new dream that involves the 2012 Olympics in London.

In the literal sense, it’s not just about getting wet for the Newport Harbor High product. Distance running, cycling, pushing her body to the limit also factor in now, as Peirsol competes in triathlon.

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This is her life now, to be the ultimate athlete. To run, swim and pedal a bike to her newfound glory, to a finish line that does not have a wall.

Peirsol finds that in her new sport, as she continues to learn more about it. She’ll compete in just her third race, when she takes part in the Los Angeles Triathlon Sunday.

“I just figured I would try this out,” Peirsol said. “In the past two months, I’ve become more passionate about it, more than I ever had been about swimming.”

In the past, not so long ago, she set a goal to reach the Beijing Games and compete with her older brother, Aaron, the backstroke king who won two gold medals and a silver. Hayley Peirsol found her niche in distance freestyle events. At one point, she was No. 4 in the world in the 1,500-meter free. She was fourth in the nation in the 800 free and had a viable chance to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. The top two in the U.S. qualified for the 2008 Olympics and leading up to Beijing, Peirsol was motivated to make it.

But something took place while on course to reach the Games that could be described as unexpected by most. Yet for Peirsol, it was inevitable. Working as a distance swimmer can be a lonely deal, as these types log more mileage than others and tend to train in solitude.

“My heart just wasn’t in it,” Peirsol said. “In order to do what I wanted to do, it just wasn’t there. To do the event that I was going to do, I was coming in and doing 10 to 11 practices a week. In order to be the top two in the U.S. you have to absolutely love what you’re doing. You’re either 100% or you can’t do it.”

Peirsol had also been recovering from a tragic incident. She dealt with post traumatic stress, effects coming from a break-in that involved a stalker who tracked Peirsol and her roommates.

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