University of Texas, and Longhorn Aquatics, coach Eddie Reese has confirmed that Aaron Peirsol is planning on retiring and is unlikely to pursue a spot at the London Olympics in 2012.
In an interview with Swimming World TV that will air tomorrow, Reese, who is currently recovering from heart surgery, said that “I think he has made it official, unofficial or unofficial official that he is not going to 2012.”
Though he won gold at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championship in the 100 back, he only made the final after Ryan Lochte scratched. While it was awesome to see the greatest backstroker of our-time go on top, it was clear that he wasn’t at the same spot that he had been at for other major meets of that level. The 27-year old has amassed a total of 7 Olympic medals (5 gold, 2 silver), and is retiring short of an opportunity to become the first male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event in three-straight games. Though his times can be replaced, his attitude and overall positive effect on the US National team will certainly leave a hole.
The biggest questions now are what will this mean for the American medley relay that has come under assault in the last year-plus from a slew of talented international squads. On the short-course stage, Nick Thoman has the inside track for the heir to the throne, as he is the current World Record holder and took the spot in the Dubai Short Course World Championships that Peirsol sat out. In long course, the US is absolutely loaded in the sprint backstrokes. David Plummer was the National Champion in the 100 last summer, though he is a bit of a late-comer to the party. My money would be on Plummer to take the spot in Shanghai. For London in 2012, I think Matt Grevers, who failed to qualify for the World Championships after several disappointing races at long course nationals, will make a strong comeback and land on the relay. He could also supplant Thoman in the short course distances if he wanted to.
After the USA Long Course World Championships roster was released, there was a lot of buzz about Peirsol’s ominous absence. We asked in our poll question whether or not our readers thought that Peirsol was done at the major-level, and at first the sentiment was overwhelmingly “no.” But then, the idea started to build momentum, and by today’s announcement, the votes had evened up significantly. The final tally shows that 42% of our readers predicted this decision, and 58% thought it wasn’t going to happen.