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Honorees

Aaron Peirsol (USA)

2016 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (200m backstroke), 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 4x100m medley), silver (200m backstroke); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (200m backstroke), 2003 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley), silver (4x200m freestyle); 2005 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2007 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (100m backstroke) , silver (200m backstroke); 2009 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2002 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (SC): gold (200m backstroke, 4x100m medley, 4x100m freestyle), silver (100m backstroke), bronze (4x200m freestyle); 2004 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (SC): gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2002 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2006 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 2010 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 4x100m medley); 1999 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: silver (200m backstroke)

 

Growing up in the seaside communities of southern California, his love affair with the water came to him naturally. He was introduced to competitive swimming under coach Stacy Zapolski at the Costa Mesa YMCA when he was just five years old. At age eight he moved to a summer swim and water polo league in Corona del Mar with coach Ted Bandaruk. At ten, he joined Junior Lifeguards in Newport Beach before making the move to Irvine’s Novaquatics to swim under Brian Pajer.

 

Aaron Peirsol’s progress as a competitor was both rapid and steady. His laid-back California demeanor belied the fierce competitor within. Under the tutelage of Dave Salo, Aaron qualified for his first Junior Nationals at 13, swam in Senior Nationals at 14 and qualified for his first national team the next year. He burst onto the international scene at 16 by winning a silver medal in the 200-meter backstroke at the 1999 Pan American Games. At 17, he won the silver medal behind Lenny Krayzelburg in the same event at the Sydney Olympic Games. After that he was unstoppable.

 

His first world title came at the 2001 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in the 200-meter backstroke. The first of his 13 long-course world records came in the same event at the USA Swimming Spring Nationals in 2002. After graduating from high school, he moved on to the University of Texas, where he would train under Hall of Fame Coach Eddie Reese for the remainder of his career.

 

At the 2003 FINA World Championships, in Montreal, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and 2005 FINA World Championships in Montreal, he swept all of the backstroke events, including his participation on the USA’s gold-medal winning medley relays.

 

In 2007 he saw his unbeaten string of seven years in the 200-meter and six years in the 100-meter snapped by teammate Ryan Lochte. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Aaron won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4×100 medley relay, while finishing runner-up to Lochte in the 200.

 

After a brief break away from the pool, but not the water, he returned the following year to raise the bar one last time. At the US Nationals, he smashed the 52-second barrier in the 100-meter with a stunning 51.94 world record swim - and at the FINA World Championships less than a month later came another world record performance of 1:51.93 in the 200-meter backstroke. The world records still stand – an astonishing seven years later.

 

Believing he had nothing more to prove in the pool, Aaron retired from the sport in 2011, but continues to develop the special relationship he has with the water and works to promote the protection of the world’s oceans.

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