IRVINE — Aaron Peirsol stood out during his mid-afternoon swim at Irvine High on Monday.
Peirsol, in Orange County for this week's USA Swimming National Championships, splashed around as he has done so often in that pool over the years. The man some call the "backstroke king" worked on his backstroke, yet there was one thing that made the 2002 Newport Harbor High graduate pretty easy to spot.
Most of the swimmers in the pool had on their college swim caps. Peirsol's swim cap had the American flag on the side, with his last name under it in blue letters.
Peirsol, 27, has been there before. The world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke and five-time Olympic gold medalist is still plenty fast and comes into these championships as a big favorite. He's the defending national champion in both events and he's expecting big things again.
"Physically I'm fit, I'm healthy," Peirsol said. "Mentally, I'm in a great place. It's great to be home. To get to have friends and family come out and watch, that's pretty cool. This is a sport where you can go around the world, and usually we do. To have it in my home pool, it's very cool, especially this late in my career."