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Peirsol Leads Backstroke Contingent Heading to World Champs Trials -- March 25, 2005

By John Lohn

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., March 25. SEVEN days and counting until the United States begins selection for this summer’s World Championships in Montreal. Today, let’s take a look at the backstroke events on the male side and what we might expect in the dorsal disciplines, far from short on depth.

Of course, any discussion of the backstroke in the U.S. must start with Aaron Peirsol, the reigning Olympic champion in the 100 and 200 distances and the world-record holder in each. Since returning from Sydney in 2000 with a silver in the 200 back, Peirsol has dominated his stroke.

In Indianapolis, there’s no reason to believe Peirsol won’t corral a pair of bids to Montreal. More, he could make a run at his global standards, which stand at 53.45 in the 100 and 1:54.74 in the 200. Yeah, reserve a summer opening for the standout from Longhorn Aquatics.

Last summer, he gave up the chance to swim the 200 backstroke in Athens. After finishing second at the U.S. Trials, Michael Phelps needed to massage his Olympic schedule to make it more workable. As a result, he dropped the event. Is it in the mix this time around? Soon, we’ll see. If Phelps decides to swim the 200 back and tackle the event in Montreal, he’s one of the few individuals in the world capable of giving Peirsol a challenge.

During this collegiate season, Ryan Lochte has shown the skill to flourish in the backstrokes on the international level. All right, it may have been in the short-course format, but Lochte recently set an American record in the 200 back. In itself, that type of success indicates that Lochte will be a force if he decides to embrace the dorsal events in Indy.

An Olympian last summer in the 200 back, thanks to Phelps’ decision to drop the event, Bryce Hunt has made a name in the longer distance. He was ranked ninth in the world last year. The 200 could also feature a push from Chris DeJong, consistently improving at the University of Michigan.

In the 100 back, the triumvirate of Peter Marshall, Matt Grevers and Randall Bal is expected to battle it out behind Peirsol. The short-course world-record holder, Marshall finished third at the Olympic Trials, just ahead of Bal in fourth. The men ranked fourth and fifth in the world, respectively. Meanwhile, Matt Grevers was seventh at Trials, but has had a monster college season at Northwestern and should be in contention.