Swimmer Dara Torres qualifies for fourth Olympics
At the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 10, 2000, Dara Torres swam the 100-meter butterfly in a time of 57.86. Jenny Thompson was ahead of her by eight one-hundredths of a second, but Torres's time was good enough to qualify her for the Olympics in Sydney. It would be her fourth Olympic Games.
Born in Los Angeles in 1967 and raised in Southern California, Torres swam for the University of Florida as an undergraduate. In four years there, she won 28 NCAA All-America swimming awards, the maximum possible. Between 1983 and 1986, she held the world record in the 50-meter freestyle (25.62).
Torres competed in her first Olympics in 1984; at those Games, she won a gold medal as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay team. In 1988, she set a new world record in the 100-meter freestyle (55.30). At that year's Olympics in Seoul, she won two more medals: bronze in the 400-meter freestyle relay and silver in the 4x100-meter medley relay.
After the 1988 Olympics, Torres retired from competitive swimming and took a job with NBC as a sports research assistant. She returned to swimming in 1991 and won a spot on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, which voted her the team captain. In Barcelona, she won gold again as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay team; that team also set a new world record. She then retired for a second time, and worked successively for the Discovery Channel, ESPN, TNT, and Fox News Channel as a host and a reporter. She also became, in 1994, the first actual swimmer to appear in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
After seven years away from the sport, Torres came out of retirement in 1999 to train for the 2000 Olympics. This comeback was more difficult than her first; not only had she been away for longer, but the sport had changed over those years. Upon her return, Torres had to learn new techniques and adapt to a new training regimen that included Pilates, vitamin and amino acid supplements, a special diet, and flexibility and weight training. Her work paid off; at the U.S. Olympic trials in August, 2000, she qualified for the U.S. team in the 100-meter butterfly, the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, and three relays. Placing first in the 50-meter freestyle, the 33-year-old became the oldest woman ever to win a race at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
In Sydney that September, Torres won five medals: gold in the 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays and bronze in her three individual events. Both relay teams also set new world records. With nine medals and three world records to her credit over four Games and sixteen years, Torres returned from Sydney as one of the most decorated Olympic athletes ever.
Torres retired again after the Sydney games, but at age 41 and after having her first child, she returned to competitive swimming and qualified to compete in her fifth Olympics in Beijing. This accomplishment makes Torres not only the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympics, but also the oldest female swimmer in the history of the Olympic Games.
In 2005, Torres was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and in 2009, she published her first book, Age is Just a Number.
To learn more about Dara Torres, visit Jewish Women in the Olympic Games.
Sources:New York Times, August 8, 2000, August 11, 2000, August 17, 2000; http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/DaraTorres.htm; http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/siforwomen/news/1999/07/30/spotlight/; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12483160; www.daratorres.com; teamusa.org/news/article/2245.