Aaron Peirsol is one of the coolest athletes in any sport. He recently took timeout between flights on his way home from the womenís NCAA Championships for 20 Question Tuesday with Bob Schaller. Peirsol debunks rumors about his shopping habits, explains his plans for life in a far away land, and explains the importance of putting forth his best effort every time he hits the water.
1 You were USA Swimmingís Swimmer of the Year for 2005. Isnít it odd to have that happen after such a great Olympics?
Aaron: I consider myself as still improving Ė vastly. There are things I need to fix, and I have a long way to go to improve. Right now Iím getting a lot stronger in every sense of the word.
2 Okay, but how about talking about your year for us in the pool? How did you go so fast in a post-Olympic year, especially considering your 2004 Olympics were so outstanding?
Aaron: I donít know. Iíve never really seen an Olympic year as being an end-of-a-season thing, or an end-of-four-years or end of anything. You try to get better. I donít put much stock into taking a break and coming back in two years in time for the Olympics. When I want to be done with the sport, Iíll be done with it. Thereís no point in waiting around for that special moment to occur once every four years. The way I look at it is that if tomorrow I swam that one race I felt I could never swim again, I could hand in my suit. I donít have to do that race at the Olympics. I just want that one swim I can look back on and be proud of, and then, thatíll be enough for me.
3 Your sister Hayley just won the 1,650 at NCAAs and was part of Auburnís incredible championship Saturday, knocking off defending champ Georgia. What was that like?
Aaron: I was there! Man, it was surreal. I knew Hayley was swimming well all year. A couple of years ago she had gone through a little funk, so I wanted to see her at NCAAs. I needed to be there. I wanted to be there, I mean. I was so glad to see her swim like that. Watching her race, I was just so proud of her. To win the way she did, it was like you will yourself past someone in a sense, and thatís the kind of win that is most rewarding. She definitely earned that win. Iím just so proud of her.
4 Tell us a little about your new place in Costa Rica?
Aaron: Itís beautiful. We have a place about an hour south of town. Where weíre at, there are no paved roads and very little running water. Weíre building on our land there now, and itís looking pretty cool.
5 I hear you are a big designer shopper now?
Aaron: I think you have some wrong informationÖ (Pause) Oh, that whole thing (laughs) with the bag. (Aaron got Hayley a Marc Jacobs bag for a gift). I remember that now. Mom picked it out.
6 How seriously do you take your role as a spokesman for open waters?
Aaron: You donít want to look back years from now and say, ďWhat did we do (to our environment)? This is something we couldíve gotten around. We couldíve found another wayÖĒ
7 So are you more interested in environmental awareness?
Aaron: Yes. Sometimes, people are a little single-minded in what they do and what they want, as far as the environment goes. They donít give a well-thought out plan to what effect it will have long-term.
8 I guess every fan has their favorite Olympic moment. Mine is when you were disqualified (and later reinstated) in 2004. Your reaction to that was so awesome, something kids everywhere can learn from. Where did that class and dignity come from?
Aaron: I definitely get that from my parents. Everyone is a product of the people they are raised by, or grow up with. That said, once your values are instilled, the rest is up to you. Specifically to the question about that moment at the Olympics: Under the circumstances, I knew I had won and done nothing wrong. As long as the guys in the race felt the same way Ė that I did nothing wrong Ė then if I donít get the medal, yeah, itís a bummer, but I knew Iíd be just fine. So I just headed to the warm-up pool because I knew I had done nothing wrong. It wasnít the medal I was going after, it was the swim that I had, and I was very proud of that. Of course (laughs) it was nice they reviewed it and I received the gold.
9 Speaking of sports moments, your Texas football team beat USC for the title. Are you a fan?
Aaron: Oh yeah. Man, that was pretty cool. That was a sweet game to watch all around
10 Whatís Vince Young, the Texas QB like? Heís gotten some bad press for allegedly not scoring well on a test he took at the NFL Combine?
Aaron: Heís a bright guy, and anyone can tell that by the way he plays the game. I mean, Iím no football guru, but I watch it. I remember some NFL guys talking at the Rose Bowl, and someone asked them if Vince was ready for the NFL, and they started laughing, ďYeah, youíve got to be kidding,Ē was their answer. He walked out on that field that night, knew what had to be done, and did it Ė did it all, and did it well. I really respect him for that.
11 So are the UT faithful celebrities like Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey big UT supporters? I mean do they support all sports, not just football?
Aaron: Actually, Iíve seen Lance a few times. Obviously heís a great athlete. But the celebrities Ė football is the common denominator, but itís great to see the team get that kind of support.
12 Has it dawned on you what a special time itís been at Texas with all the great swimmers there right now Ė yourself, Ian, Brendan and the others?
Aaron: Well, you look at the way weíve done things over the yearsÖ you build up this certain camaraderie and support for the people you swim with. You build that confidence that you belong there, that you belong with the best. We realized that many years ago when we were a lot younger, so it became a matter of, ďHow far can we push it?Ē We get together on a relay, and itís not, ďCan we win?Ē but ďHow much can we win by?Ē Thatís our mentality for the relay. Weíre all very different personalities too, which makes it kind of cool. We all have something different to bring to the table, and weíre all very effective individually. So that also makes it pretty unique.
13 Whatís something special Ian does besides cars and playing his guitar Ė can he cook?
Aaron: Yeah, Ianís a great (laughs) little cook. He does this barbecue thing and has this smoker outside.
14 What about Brendan Hansen?
Aaron: Brendan goes fishing more than he goes swimming right now. He and Neil (Walker) and Ed go fishing and hunting a lot. Brendan is done with school so now has more free time.
15 Now that you are making a good living swimming, has money changed you?
Aaron: No. I mean, maybe itís changed me, but not for the worse. You have different responsibilities, but nothing too drastic. Iíve never swum for the glory. You do this, and itís pretty cool to make a living and have an impact doing the sport you grew up in.
16 How cool was your China trip?
Aaron: Dude, China was awesome. It was one of my best trips in a long time. It was a very different, eye-opening experience. I know Iíll be going back. I recommended it to all the guys.
17 Sounds like you got a lot out of it, correct?
Aaron: Yeah, are you kidding me? For sure. It wasnít just seeing the venues for 2008, it was about the culture, and that was so cool. Beijing is actually a pretty westernized city, but the rest of China isnít as much. The rest of the country, the parts I was fortunate enough to visit, were just great.
18 Chinaís a big swimming country now more than ever, isnít it?
Aaron: Oh, man, yes! I should say China will field some of the best swimmers in 2008 at their Olympics. They will put on a show, Iím saying that right now.
19 Do you look over your shoulder at who is chasing you in your events?
Aaron: Iíve never been the kind to do that. The guys I compete against now, like Michael (Phelps) or Ryan (Lochte), these arenít even their main events. But Iíve never been the kind to do that, even when a meet is coming up, or whatever. You go out, do your best race, and thatís it.
20 Whatís it like to be the best in the world at something?
Aaron: Itís cool. I mean, to set a record, to win gold and be the best Ė thatís something no one can ever take away from you.