Monday, July 2, 2012

Dara Torres, still golden despite Olympic disappointment

At the age of 45, most adults struggle to just find a workout in the daily lives. Spouses, kids and responsibilities rule the day and night. The sounds of whistles, horns and buzzers belong to their children, during weekday afternoon practices or Saturday matinee kickoffs. No, the mid-forties are an age of trying to keep up with life itself, not Olympic competitors. But there is an exception to every rule and American swimming sensation Dara Torres was the rule breaker of the 2012 United States Olympic swimming trials.
The 45 year-old attempted to make the U.S. team for a sixth time. This was not just some publicity stunt or ridiculous shot at selfish glory. Torres was coming off a three medal performance in the 2008 Beijing Games all silver, becoming the oldest American female athlete in Olympic swim history to medal at the age of 41. The former Florida Gator has made Olympic success her calling card. She’d medaled 12 times in five appearances, starting with the 1984 Los Angeles games and despite not trying out for the 1996 Atlanta games or the 2004 Athens Olympics. Torres has also created her age-less legacy without one shred of controversy. In order to pre-empt any speculation she might have ever taken performance enhancing drugs, she’s volunteered to take enhanced drug-testing programs, always coming up clean. But on Monday night it was father-time that finally caught up with the Olympic legend. Torres was attempting to qualify in only one event this time around, the 50 meter freestyle. After finishing third in the semi-final heat, she needed just one more swim of a quick 50 meters to earn a trip to London and one more dip of Olympic glory. But in Omaha, Nebraska she came up just nine-hundredths’ of a second short. 25-year-old Jessica Handy finished first in a time of 24.50 seconds with Kara Lynn Joyce winning the second spot in a time of 24.73 seconds. Christine Magnuson hit the wall third in 24.78 with Torres a quarter-breath behind at 24.82 seconds. So, sporting a smile in defeat, swimming mortality set in for good. Torres will retire, without another comeback, tying Jenny Thompson as the most decorated United States swimmer in Olympic history. Afterwards she told her six-year-old daughter Tessa she would still take her to London for the games, capping off a Monday night where most 45-year-olds would be picking their daughter up from the local pool, not finishing off one of they greatest careers in swimming history.

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