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Peirsol talks about his retirement

Five-time Olympic gold medalist reveals reasons for retiring and expresses that he's content.

February 02, 2011|By Steve Virgen, steve.virgen@latimes.com
(Daily Pilot File…)

Aaron Peirsol stood and waved from the champion's top spot on the podium moments after winning the 100-meter backstroke Aug. 18, 2010.

His hometown crowd cheered for him at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine. They were happy to see him win and they were looking forward to what he would provide next. But Peirsol knew his career was over, he said Wednesday when he explained his reasons for retiring.

Peirsol's coach Eddie Reese told swimmingworldmagazine.com Tuesday that the five-time Olympic gold medalist had retired.

Peirsol, a former Newport Harbor High star, said he never really thought to make his retirement public or "to make a big deal about it."

He told people close to him that he was done with competitive swimming shortly after the Pan Pacific Championships in August.

"I ended up doing everything I set out to do," Peirsol said during a phone interview from his home in Austin, Texas. "It was an amazing feeling to know that I was done when I was on that podium."

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Peirsol called his final competition, "poetic," since he swam at the pool where he had trained as a kid with Irvine Novaquatics.

When he was through, Peirsol said he hung his goggles and gear at a locker and just walked away.

"It was cool," he said. "It felt amazing. I was always thinking how it would be when it was over, and I just knew it had ended."

Peirsol had been thinking about retiring since 2008, after winning two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. In 2010, he said it was difficult for him to find a goal and to gain motivation. But he said he was fine with that. He was content with what he had accomplished.

"I always told myself that when I was done I would be done," the 27-year-old said. "When I look back on my career I can smile."

Peirsol also expressed joy when he talked about growing up in Orange County and the special memories he has about home.

The laid-back star swimmer is revered in various parts of Orange County, including Newport Beach. He started out as a youth competitor for the Harbor View Swim Team where he broke several age-group records. Later, it was on to Irvine Novaquatics. He also competed for Newport Harbor and he's known as one of the greatest athletes to come out of the school, that also has NBA great George Yardley and beach volleyball legend Misty May-Treanor as alumni.

Peirsol stressed he wanted to call the Daily Pilot first to talk about his retirement because the newspaper reminded him of home and where he grew up.

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