Arena Grand PrixView Featuring Aaron Peirsol
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
One of the most remarkable moments in a swimmer’s life is the first time he or she competes against an Olympian. Sometimes it happens in an actual meet. Sometimes it happens at senior nationals, or at an Arena Grand Prix event, or even just at a small, local invitational. Other times, it happens at a swim clinic. Whenever it occurs, it is unforgettable. It’s like throwing a football with Joe Montana, or playing HORSE with Michael Jordan.
Next weekend at the Arena Grand Prix at Mesa presented by VisitMesa.com, 23 kids will be able to swim in a fun relay event with two Olympic heroes: Aaron Peirsol and Janet Evans.
Arena announced a new program designed to let kids swim in a relay with Peirsol and Evans. It’s called the Arena Grand PrixView Featuring Aaron Peirsol. It will also happen at the Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara. The program will feature a speech given by Peirsol. Then, the kids will hop into the pool for a fun relay immediately before finals, emceed by the man with the magic voice, Rowdy Gaines.
“I know I speak for much of the U.S. National Team when I say that we recognize the importance of encouraging and perpetuating the love of the sport, and I hope an experience like the Arena Grand PrixView will positively impact kids across the nation,” Aaron Peirsol said in a press release.
This is just one more way Arena is figuring out ways to give back to the community. So much of the Arena Grand Prix is centered around “fast swimming” – but swimming is about so much more than that. It’s about the ability to bring together Olympians and swim fans. It’s about the fusion of age group swimmers and their USA Swimming heroes. It’s about having fun, communicating passion, and displaying that to the world.
The 23 kids chosen to participate in the Arena Grand PrixvView event were selected because of their commitment to attending practice in the local Mesa area. This means, they are among the most dedicated of swimmers. What a neat, unique reward for swimmers showing up to all those days when that cold blue pool seems more daunting than usual.
It’ll be a moment those kids never forget.
"In Aaron, we found the perfect ambassador for this cause -- someone who is wholly committed to inspiring kids and encouraging their love of our sport,” said Tim McCool of Arena North America.
While many swim fans wonder about Peirsol’s interesting (and coincidently timed?) April Fools post about his pending “unretirement,” we’ll at least know -- for sure -- that Aaron will be in the water once more.
On April 13th, while not every swimmer has a chance to swim in front of hundreds of spectators at night during one of the most prestigious swim events of the year, a select few dedicated kids will have an opportunity to have some fun. Under the lights. Alongside heroes.
But it’s not just about swimming alongside heroes. It’s about having fun. It’s about just having passion for the water. We get wrapped up so much with times and goals and results, we forget that swimming is really about just connecting with the water, teammates, and enjoying the sport. After the PrixView event, the kids will get to watch Arena Grand Prix finals on deck, get autographs, take pictures, have dinner, and just have a great time.
“We all need to remember why we fell in love with this sport,” Peirsol was quoted, “And I hope I can help send that message through this event series.”
Mike Gustafson is a freelance writer for USA Swimming and Splash Magazine.