Former Longhorn Aaron Peirsol lowers world record at World Championship Trials
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Aaron Peirsol had no idea he was on a world-record pace.
Peirsol, who took off about four months after the Olympics last year, broke his own record in the 100-meter backstroke Saturday night with a surprising 53.17 seconds in the U.S. trials for this summer's world championships.
"I think it's rare you surprise yourself like that," said Peirsol, who won three gold medals at the Athens Games. "It's good that I still can."
He had a time of just under 55 seconds in the preliminaries and said he had no thought of lowering his world mark of 53.45. At least, not yet.
"I don't think I'm in peak shape," he said.
The 21-year-old Peirsol said the time away from swimming apparently helped him.
"Maybe I took it up to the next level and didn't know it," he said. "Maybe taking all that time off last semester really did help me revive my body. I don't know what I did. But cool, man, whatever happened, it's good."
Randall Bal of Stanford was second at 54.01 seconds, and Matt Grevers of Northwestern was third at 54.59.
The winner of each event is guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships July 24-31 in Montreal. Depending on multiple-event winners, second-place finishers could be added to the American squad.
The six-day meet ends on Wednesday.
Michael Phelps, who won eight medals at Athens, and 15-year-old Katie Hoff, who set an American record in the 200 individual medley on Friday, became the meet's first double-winners Saturday night.
Phelps, who won the 400 freestyle Friday night, added a win in the 200 free with a time of 1:46.44. He and the next three finishers -- Peter Vanderkaay, Klete Keller and Ryan Lochte -- automatically qualified for the 800 relay at the world meet. That same quartet surprised the favored Australian team by winning the gold at Athens last year.
"I just wanted to see the best time I could get, and I was pretty pleased with that," said Phelps, whose winning time was more than a second slower than his American record and more than two seconds slower than the 1:44.06 world mark held by Australia's Ian Thorpe.
Asked about Peirsol's record, Phelps, said, "It was a good swim. The (U.S.) team's starting to shape up pretty well. Definitely we're going to be able to do something this summer."
But he said he didn't need Peirsol's record for extra motivation himself.
"I'd like to break a record every single time I go out in the water," said Phelps, who had six golds at Athens. "Anything's possible, but it's tough to do that. I shoot for my best time every day, and if it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, I have something to shoot for."
Natalie Coughlin, who won five Olympic medals, failed to qualify in the 100-meter butterfly Friday and was scratched from the 200 freestyle before winning the 100 backstroke Saturday night. She set the world record in that event three years ago.
"I really didn't even decide what to swim until about seven days ago," she said. "My main thought was to do the 100 back and the 100 freestyle, and then last week I decided to do the 100 fly."
Coughlin, a gold medalist in the 100 backstroke at Athens, suffered a stress fracture in her left foot while training last September. She finished a disappointing third in the butterfly on Friday but won the backstroke at 1:01.08, well off her record time of 59.58 seconds.
Jeri Moss was second at 1:02.30.
"I was happy with both performances, tonight and yesterday," Coughlin said. "I just started training again in January, and I'm not the most prepared. But I knew I could at least pull it off in the 100 backstroke. I'm just looking forward to getting back into real training and getting ready for the summer."
Phelps was away from swimming for more than a month after the Olympics.
"This is something we're going to build off of, and hopefully when we get to Montreal, that race will be faster," he said.
Phelps did not compete in the 200 butterfly, an event in which he set a world record at 1:53.93 two years ago. Davis Tarwater of Michigan won that event Saturday night at 1:58.71.
Hoff won the 200 free in 1:59.56.
Texas World Championship Trials Notes: Senior All-American Rainer Kendrick (Birmingham, Ala.), who won the 200-meter butterfly at the 2004 NCAA Championships and finished runner-up to Davis Tarwater in 2005, placed fifth in that event with a time of 2:00.52 ... All-America freshman Hayley McGregory (Houston, Texas), who finished third in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last July, finished fourth in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:02.42, while sophomore Elaine Ferritto (Columbus, Ohio) posted the seventh-best time (1:04.23) of the `B' final ... All-America freshman Matthew McGinnis (Raleigh, N.C.) placed sixth in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:49.91, while Longhorns signee Michael Klueh won the `B' final in 1:50.79 ... Ryan Verlatti, also a Texas signee, turned in a runner-up finish in the `C' final of the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1:52.11 ... also competing in the 200-meter freestyle were former Longhorns Nate Dusing and Neil Walker as well as UT sophomore Garrett Weber-Gale (Fox Point, Wis.) ... Dusing qualified ninth (1:50.85) in the morning prelim while Walker qualified 18th (1:52.12), but neither competed in the finals ... Weber-Gale, the 2005 Big 12 Conference Swimmer of the Year, placed 38th in the prelims (1:54.32) ... freshman All-American Daniel Rohleder (Austin, Texas) swam alongside Peirsol in the `A' final of the 100-meter backstroke and finished seventh with a time of 56.15 ... sophomore Thomas Sacco (Dallas, Texas) placed 8th in the `B' final - 16th overall - but turned in his fastest time of the day in the prelims by touching the wall in 57.45 ... sophomore Katie Robinson (Dillsboro, Ind.) and junior Kristin Siminski (Portage, Ind.) placed 25th and 30th, respectively, in the prelims of the women's 200-meter freestyle.