Wella Hartig, center, with her daughter, Hayley, and Aaron Peirsol.

Wella Hartig, center, with her daughter, Hayley, and Aaron Peirsol. (Courtesy of Wella Hartig / May 10, 2013)

  • Related
  • Steve Virgen Signature

Ever wonder what it takes to raise elite athletes, including one who became a five-time Olympic gold medalist?

Wella Hartig, the mother of Aaron and Hayley Peirsol, details her experience of what she describes in one instance as, "a perfect storm," in her new book, "Buoyant: How Water and Willpower Helped Wella to Channel Aaron and Hayley Peirsol."

Hartig wrote the book with Laura Cottam Sajbel. It's available online.

Hartig writes about the triumphs, adversity and pressure it took to raise Aaron, the world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke, and Hayley, a standout distance swimmer who competed for Auburn and later became a triathlete.

Hartig, who now lives in Costa Rica, contends the book isn't solely about swimming, or aquatics, or raising athletes. It also concentrates on life as a single mother, specifically the life of Hartig, who separated from her first husband, Scott Peirsol, and later divorced.

"I had a tough road," Wella Hartig said during a phone interview this week. "I was divorced, a young mother. I raised two children with the help of my husband [Tim Hartig] now. At first it was very difficult … It wasn't all smooth. It was really difficult.

"It's a sport/guidance book for people who are going through similar situations."

Wella Hartig said she wanted to write the book to help single mothers. She said she grew up amid "a lot of depression," as her mother "was severely depressed," and her father was an alcoholic.

"I'm a survivor," she said. "I knew when I had children I would raise them completely different. I had a scholarship to go to college for dance, but I didn't go. I never had anyone back then who really pushed me. I was the youngest of four. I wouldn't say I'm a victim. I just didn't have support. I wanted to make sure I was there for support for my children."

She opens up about her life in the book, details about her use and misuse of welfare to support her children, who trained with the Irvine Novaquatics, and were standouts at Newport Harbor High.

"I'm proud of how I turned my life around," she said. "I succeeded in raising two adults. My husband [Tim], I couldn't do it without him.

"He raised my children pretty much. I had two-and-a-half years when I was single. I moved to California and I moved in with my parents. I began to be a single mom. I was married at 19. I never had a life of being on my own. It was a real rude awakening especially with two children. I didn't do everything perfect and I made a lot of mistakes, but I tried my best."

In the book there are instances where she declares triumphs. She was well aware the pressure that Aaron and Hayley dealt with while training in their sport. She saw how competitive they became throughout their lives, yet managed to turn off the fire when it came with dealing with people out of the water.

Aaron Peirsol is known for his laid-back persona and good-guy charm. Hayley is tenacious in spirit, yet sweet socially.

Wella Peirsol is proud of that.

In the book she writes: "… now that I've come to this place in my life, I realize, you know, Top this one! I've got these kids, these amazing kids. I made some big mistakes, and I also came from a pretty dysfunctional house—and I made it. If that's not inspiration for somebody, then I don't know what else to say."