Aaron Peirsol has dominated swimming's backstroke events since his first world record at age 17.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Peirsol's third Games, he won gold in the 100m Backstroke and 4x100m Medley Relay—setting world records at both in the process—and claimed silver in the 200m Backstroke to bring his total lifetime medal haul to seven. His time of 52:54 in the 100m Backstroke in Beijing was his fifth world record in that event, a race he has not lost since the 2002 Spring Nationals.
Out of the pool, Peirsol works hard to promote the protection of the world's oceans. On November 8 and 9, 2008, the inaugural Race for the Oceans will take place in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Along with Rowdy Gaines, Peirsol will conduct an open water swim clinic on Saturday, followed by 5K, 1K and relay events throughout the day on Sunday.
Active talked with Aaron recently about his love for the ocean, the upcoming event and how he sees it growing in the future.
Active: How did you come to be an advocate for the oceans?
Aaron Peirsol: I grew up in Southern California in an area with a lot of growth; where if you had enough money you could pretty much build anywhere, including in areas that were deemed more or less environmentally-safe places.
I grew up in an area called the Back Bay [in Newport Beach], and just seeing that area being built on over the years just because people have money, and then, of course, more and more closed beaches every year, and more and more days where you cannot even go into the water—it kind of got to the point where all my buddies and I said "You know, it'd be cool if we could do something at some point."
A few years ago I got in touch with a group called Oceana, a lobbying group out of the Northeast, and since then we've done some great things. They were so enthusiastic about doing something with me.
How did the idea of putting on a race originate?
AP: We were trying to figure out how I could get the whole swimming community involved, and some local communities as well. It came down to trying to see if people wanted to help out in regards to the way I was training in the past year and a half or so. We came up a thing were, going up to the Olympics, you could donate a certain amount—kind of like a jog-a-thon. However many miles I swim you could donate per mile, but also we wanted to come up with a cool event.
It turned out that Race for the Oceans was what we came up with. Fort Myers was more than grateful to have us down there. It's worked out pretty well. It's actually come along a lot better than we thought the first time around.
Has it been a learning experience being on the production side of an event as opposed to the participation side?
AP: Yeah, absolutely. We've been in a bubble for the past year and half. We haven't really been able to do anything but swim, so it's nice to get out there and actually do something you've been wanting to do for quite some time but have had to put on the backburner—more or less use your head and not just your body.