Dara Torres is worked on by her trainers before swimming at the Texas Senior Circuit Long Course Meet #3 at Texas A&M University Student Recreation Center Natatorium on May 20, 2012 in College Station, Texas. Torres finished first in her Womens 50 LC Meter Freestyle prelim with a time of 25.78. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
By Phil Minshull, Special to Universal Sports
The superlatives start piling up when you start to describe Dara Torres, which is only part of the wonder because she is still potentially capable of adding to them.
At 45, and the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, she is bidding to become the first American to make six Olympic swim teams; that’s an impressive statistic on its own but even more stunning when you consider that she also stood out the 1996 and 2004 Games.
Torres made her Olympic debut in 1984 as a 17-year-old, earning a gold medal as part of the Team USA 4x100m relay team.
Remember, this was an era when there were two Germanys, one Soviet Union, and the Cold War was still going strong with the Soviet Bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games.
She has since gone on to amass 12 Olympic medals of all hues, including further victories in the 4x100m relay in 1992 and 2000 and also a 4x100m medley relay gold in Sydney 12 years ago.
Her Games tally is a record for women swimmers, an honor she co-owns with her one-time Team USA relay colleague Jenny Thompson, and only the Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina has got more medals among from female Olympians across all sports.
This time around, Torres is just focusing on the 50m freestyle, what has become her signature event in the last decade and the one in which she almost fulfilled her ambition of getting an individual gold medal four years ago.
Torres swam a still-standing American record holder of 24.07 in Beijing but just denied the crowning accolade of her career when she finished just 1-100th behind the German winner Britta Steffen, a swimmer almost 17 years her junior who went on to set the current world record of 23.73 at the 2009 World Championships.
However, Torres has got well-accustomed to the age-related comparisons between herself and her rivals.
Most of the other 164 entries in the 50m freestyle at next week’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha are more than half her age.
Nevertheless, Californian native who is now based in Florida and who has been preparing for the Trials in Coral Springs, is still a good outside bet to get one of the two places on the Olympic team.
She may be seeded eighth but, obviously, is hugely experienced at knowing how to bring best game to the table.
However, she has had three knee surgeries as well as a pair of operations on an injured shoulder and hernia since Beijing and she knows that this may be her last roll of the dice as a top-level swimmer.
“It seems like I’m sore every freaking day. You never get a day where you’re like: ‘My whole body just feels really good’,” joked Torres, in a recent interview with the Washington Post.
Torres also revealed that, despite her age-defying performances, she bought her first pair of reading glasses last year and now sports a few gray hairs.
“This has definitely mentally and physically been the most challenging Olympics I’ve ever trained for by far. It’s only been four years since the last one. I don’t know why I’m suddenly feeling the effects of age now, but I am,” she admitted.
However, even if it is her last roll of the dice as a top-level swimmer, it would take a brave gambler to would bet against her being on the plane to London.