Earlier this week I saw a picture of Dara Torres in the latest issue of Fitness magazine. She
was wearing an Olympic-themed bikini and is a picture of solid chiselled muscle. Head to toe. Dara is my age, 44. Our birthdays are 6 days apart. I do not look like solid chiselled muscle in any type of bikini, Olympic or not, which is why I tend not to wear them.
When I was a young swimmer, Dara was a rapidly rising star swimmer, headed to the Olympics. She, along with other Olympic swimmers of that time, like Rowdy Gaines, Tracy Caulkins, Nancy Hogshead, and others, were the icons that I and my swimming friends looked up to and talked about during all those long practices, tough workouts, and meets where we didn’t think we had a chance. Dara trained with the Olympic team coach at Mission Viejo, CA. That was where we dreamt of going. Train at Mission Viejo, then on to the Olympics.
Of course, we were kids, and mostly just having fun. Sure, plenty of kids I swam with eventually got swim scholarships to college and swam their way through 4 years. But no one I knew made it much past that. Swimming for them ended and it had ended for me earlier in college, when it interfered with the rest of my life too much. Besides being time consuming, swimming is a tough sport. Burnout is common. Although you’re part of a team and may practice with others, it’s you, in the water, without the ability to talk much with anyone else. Lap after lap.
Life ensued and new swimming stars came on the scene. Michael Phelps, Ian Crocker, Ryan Lochte, Amanda Beard, Natalie Coughlin….
Then, during the 2008 Olympics, Dara Torres was back. She was 41 years old, had given birth to a baby girl, and was making a bid for the US Olympic swim team. Not only did she make it, she brought home 3 silver medals.
Yep, 3 silver Olympic medals. At age 41. And now, at age 44, she is aiming to get on the 2012 Olympic team. I like her odds.
Dara’s story is great. She wrote a memoir “Age is Just a Number” after her 2008 Olympics experience. It chronicles some of the differences between her early Olympics and her “older” one. Great story.
Although we may not be not professional athletes and may not have access to the top level coaches, facilities, or available time to train like professionals, it’s awesome to see that older can be great, and sometimeseven better.
And, there may hope yet for my Olympic swimming bid. Although at this point I may have to settle for trying to celebrate a birthday with Dara.