And Then They Won Gold: High Goals


And Then They Won Gold (Medium)

By Chuck Warner//Special Contributor

This is the third in a series of themes that we discovered in the research and writing of the book …And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones To Swimming Excellence, a highly acclaimed book by swimming leaders around the world. It is written for swimmers, coaches and parents to learn the steps to swimming excellence.


The book chronicles the development of eight great swimmers that collectively won 28 Olympic Gold Medals, in all four of the swimming strokes and most distances. Their careers are chronicled from their start in swimming in summer leagues to working their way to the top of the Olympic podium.


The swimmers are: Matt Biondi, Dave Berkoff, Mike Barrowman, Josh Davis, Lenny Krayzelburg, Ian Crocker, Grant Hackett and Aaron Peirsol.


…And Then They Won Gold, Theme III: High Goals of Olympic Champions.

Athletes who have high goals tend to be synonymous with great achievements. We found several interesting aspects about the way these eight great swimmers created and sustained their lock on their goals.

  • Timing: Seven of eight swimmers began to see themselves achieving very high goals several years before achieving them. However, one individual never thought about the Olympics until a year before setting a world record and winning an Olympic gold medal.
  • Limits: No athlete ever exceeded their goals.
  • Visible: A few athletes posted goals in their bedroom.
  • Source: Only a few coaches initiated a high goal such as competing at the Olympics, but in most cases the coach planted the “Olympic seed” and nurtured it.

Aaron Peirsol moved into the senior group at the Irvine Novas as a 13-year-old. There were four years to the Sydney Olympics. That fall, Coach Dave Salo presented Aaron with the goal of earning a spot on the 2000 USA Olympic Team. A few weeks later this was the scene at practice:

On a dark, cold night at practice that season, the senior group had trained for two hours, and Aaron was exhausted. They had just completed a test set of 3 x 300s on 5:00. Everyone was dismissed except for Aaron. Coach Salo asked him to stay in the water. Dave was clearly unhappy with Aaron’s performance.

“Aaron, I want you to do another,” Dave told him.

“I’ll do my best,” Aaron responded respectfully. Aaron swam again. Dave wasn’t satisfied.

“Let’s do another,” Dave ordered. Aaron swam another 300, but it wasn’t faster.

“Let’s do another,” Dave said again.

Aaron thought to himself, “What do you want from me?” But he swam another, and it was no faster. Aaron touched the wall and Dave knelt down at the side of the pool in front of him.

“Listen,” Dave said to him. “You have the ability over the next four years to do something really special. Our goal is for you to make an Olympic Team. In order to do that you have to train like Jeff Rouse and Brad Bridgewater [former world record holders] did when they were here.” Aaron knew those names and respected them greatly. He fed off his coach’s belief in him and the excitement over the prospect of being able to reach his special goal. He intensified his training to get there.

Aaron Peirsol went on to win five Olympic gold medals and become the greatest backstroker in the world.
For more excerpts, check out Theme I and Theme II.


For more information or to order …And Then They Won Gold, go to www.areteswim.com (access Books * Media), Swimming World Magazine or the American Swimming Coaches Association. The author is Chuck Warner, who has also written the highly regarded book Four Champions, One Gold Medal, the story of the preparation and race for the gold medal in the 1500-meter freestyle at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.