Flash! World Championships: Courtesy of Aaron Peirsol in 100 Back, World-Record Assault Continues

By John Lohn

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 27. WHAT a night for the American contingent. The greatest backstroker in history, Aaron Peirsol became the first man under 53 seconds tonight when he covered the 100-meter backstroke in 52.98. The effort allowed Peirsol to dip under his former mark of 53.17 and gave Peirsol the five-fastest efforts the sport has seen.

Peirsol's global standard was the third of the night for the United States, joining Michael Phelps (200 free) and Natalie Coughlin (100 backstroke). Meanwhile, Brendan Hansen was the top qualifier in the 50 breaststroke and Kate Ziegler defended her championship in the 1,500 free. Peirsol's win was his third straight in the event.

Turning at the 50-meter mark in third place, behind Great Britain's Liam Tancock and American teammate Ryan Lochte, Peirsol turned to his superb closing ability and rocketed to the front of the field. Once Peirsol pulled even with the opposition, there was no doubt he'd get to the wall first. The only question was whether he'd generate a world record.

"This is certainly one of the most impressive teams I've been on, the most impressive," Peirsol said of Team USA. "What Michael did was incredible, and Natalie as well. I had to do something. I've had more competition than I've ever had in the past. It's going to keep pushing me."

Lochte stayed strong through the last half of the race and finished in 53.50 for the silver medal and Tancock went 53.61 for the bronze medal and a Commonwealth record. Arkady Vyatchanin, the European champion in the event, was fourth in 53.69 and Austrian Markus Rogan was fifth in 53.78. The field was easily the fastest in history.

Click Here to view event results PDF file.