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Peirsol goes for gold

Former Newport Harbor star will try to defend 100 and 200 backstroke titles at Pan Pacific finals.

August 17, 2010|David Carrillo PeƱaloza, david.carrillo@latimes.com
  • Aaron Peirsol reacts after placing second in the 100-meter backstroke at the 2010 ConocoPhillips National Championships at William J. Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.
Aaron Peirsol reacts after placing second in the 100-meter… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

IRVINE — Aaron Peirsol sat in a room that is used by ballerinas and gymnasts. With a straight face, the 6-foot-4 swimmer tried his best to answer questions Monday.

He found ways to dance around a couple of them.

Peirsol is one of the captains on the U.S. men's team at the Pan Pacific Championships, which start Wednesday at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine. He is supposed to lead the Americans and be vocal.

The Newport Harbor High graduate has already made sure some of the younger members of the team show off their personality.

Even in swimming, there is hazing.

Peirsol said he helped the U.S. men's and women's teams produce skits, two days before the five-day meet begins. As for embarrassing highlights that included other swimmers, Peirsol stayed quiet.

For good reason, he said.

"Probably nothing appropriate enough to put in the paper," said Peirsol, who confirmed no one received a Tim Tebow-type haircut on Sunday. "We have some funny people on our team.

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"Someone tried to imitate me and did a very good job."

Peirsol is hoping no one can duplicate his success in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events. The "Backstroke King" wants his crown back.

For the second time this month, Peirsol returns to his backyard pool, where he swam with the Irvine Novaquatics as a kid. He no longer is the young gun.

The 27-year-old finished second in both the 100 and 200 backstroke events at the USA Swimming National Championships earlier this month. Two silvers earned Peirsol shots to race the same events for the U.S. team at the Pan Pacific finals.

Falling short of defending his national titles was not that big of a deal. He convinced himself of that after being upset by David Plummer in the 100 backstroke, his first finals loss at a national-level event since 2000, and then losing to Ryan Lochte in the 200 backstroke.

Now, Peirsol is hoping his attitude rubs off on the youngsters on the team.

"We're trying to get them mentally focused and mentally ready and to know the nationals was just a warm up," Peirsol said. "It's going to be tough, especially since we have to go fast in the morning and afternoon."

The pace feels right to Peirsol, who won the gold in the 100 and 200 backstroke events at the Pac Pacific finals in 2006.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist is in his hometown, and not too far away from his favorite U.S. city, Newport Beach. The beach is a place Peirsol has visited since being back in town.

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