NEAR THE WARM-UP POOL AT THE Missouri Grand Prix swim meet, in Columbia, a crop of Olympic hopefuls lolled around in practice suits and towels on a Saturday morning in February. Fully clothed among them stood some relics of Olympics past: Scott Goldblatt, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Games, wore an aqua sport coat and a striped tie and was doing on-air commentary for Swimnetwork.com; Mel Stewart, who won two golds and a bronze in 1992, wore the same goofy get-up, working as Goldblatt’s sidekick. Meanwhile, Dara Torres, who won the first of her nine Olympic medals in 1984, a year before Michael Phelps was born, stripped off her baggy T-shirt and sweat pants, revealing a breathtaking body in a magenta Speedo. She pulled on a cap marked with her initials and prepared to swim. Torres is now 41 and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Tessa Grace. She broke her first of three world records in 1982, at 14, and she has retired from swimming and come back three times, her latest effort built on an obsessive attention to her aging body.
This is that "aging body":
As a former competitive swimmer (I was in contention for the 1980 Olympic team), I can admire the dedication it takes to achieve a certain level, and the energy one has to expend. That's just in your twenties. That doesn't take into account the ravages of age and time:
Last November in Germany, Torres clocked 23.82 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle short course, breaking the American record and making her one of only five women to swim the event in less than 24 seconds. The day after she got home to South Florida, she had a bone spur shaved out of her shoulder. In early January, she had another operation, to deal with a torn meniscus in her knee. Now just five weeks after the latest procedure, Torres looked great. She flashed her wide-open smile at Stewart and dove in the pool. Stewart retreated to Goldblatt and shrugged. “Hey, we’d all be in there if we could be winning,” he said.Hell, I still can barely lift my left arm above my shoulder from all the training!
Should Torres prevail at the Olympic Trials this week, she will attend her fifth Olympic games and will be the oldest female swimmer ever, as well as the older American Olympic swimmer, a title previously held by Rowdy Gaines who swam in 1996 at the age of 35.
Lest you think that her life has been all strawberries and cream, go read the article and get a glimpse of what someone has to give up to be that dedicated to competition.
Marvelous. Simply marvelous.