Dara Torres has competed in five Olympic games since 1984, won 12 medals, and set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle first at 15 years old and then again at 40. The New York Times described her as having "the perfect swimmer's body," hardly marked by age, "gangly, loose and cocky, like a teenage boy's." She tried again for the Olympics this time and missed qualifying by 0.09 seconds in that same event.
The lead in today's AP story is harsh: "Dara Torres is headed back to Florida to watch the Olympics on TV, like a lot of middle-aged folks."
In the course of setting three world records, including the 50-yard freestyle "splash and dash" that's her specialty, Torres hardly slowed down with age. This made her an unwitting poster child for middle-aged people who can still do things, and the media followed her more closely with every return to the Olympics, tracking her every wrinkle.
There's a "she's just like us" appeal too: the mom of a young child who lives in a subdivision in South Florida and occasionally drives the ol' minivan to the qualifying trials to break another record. Like ya do. All this sets her up for things like this covert and enthralling advertisement for chocolate milk:
Here are the results from yesterday's race, with Torres tied for a nonqualifying third.
She says this is the final attempt at the Olympics in her career. But if the alternative is lounging by the wading pool in Parkland with the other aging Floridians, swatting mosquitoes and dusting off the old medals, we wouldn't blame her for dreaming of a return in 2016.