Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Revel in Dara Torres' Olympic story for the ages

At 41, Florida’s Dara Torres will swim for a medal today in her fifth Olympics.

Associated Press

At 41, Florida’s Dara Torres will swim for a medal today in her fifth Olympics.

BEIJING — There are days you feel the years. There are days they are heavier than others.

After all, you are in your 40s, and life is tiring. Your daughter, love her as you do, seems to have you outnumbered. You long to feel the way you used to feel.

Oh, do we have an Olympian for you.

Dara Torres knows how you feel. She is 41, less than a decade from her AARP card, and there have been a lot of laps around the pool. She is a mother now, of 2-year-old Tessa. It has been almost a quarter of a century since her first Olympics, and she has lived through two divorces. Yes, she says, there are days when she can barely lift her arms to swim.

Today, of course, is not one of those days.

Today, she swims for an Olympic medal. Again.

Forget the doubts for a moment. They will not go away, and it can be argued that perhaps they shouldn't. For the moment, however, they are clouding one of the finest stories in the history of the Olympics.

Dara Torres is still here, after all this time.

Forty-one? Can you believe what you are seeing? Into her fifth Olympics — she has missed two others since 1984 — Torres is still a threat. The former Florida Gator and South Florida resident owns 10 medals and might get another one in tonight's 50-meter freestyle final.

Yet despite that, somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the significance of the Torres story. These days, whenever her name comes up in competition, it automatically launches one of those do-you-believe/do-you-doubt conversations. The world has been stung by so many drug cheats, after all, and many of them swore they were clean, too.

With Torres, however, the real story isn't the drugs, it's the decades. Oh, you can criticize her later. Let's agree on this: If Torres ever tests positive, during the Olympics or any time afterward, she deserves whatever criticism she gets. If she is merely one step ahead of the available tests, then let us remember that she maintained her innocence even more loudly than Marion Jones once did.

A demanding sport

Agreed? Now, let's talk about a story for the ages.

She is old, okay. The sport of swimming demands so much, and the margins of victory are so small, that it usually chews up world-class competitors fairly quickly.

Think about this: Torres is older than Janet Evans, older than Amy Van Dyken. She is older than Mary Lou Retton and Steffi Graff. She is older than Lisa Leslie and Mia Hamm and Rebecca Lobo and Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. All those athletes have long since retired.

Not Torres. She still swims in the present tense.

These days, she swims for an older fan base. Mothers. Former athletes. Women in their 40s.

Oh, and she swims for Michael Lohberg, too.

Lohberg, Torres' coach, is supposed to be here to watch her race. When the two of them are together, they banter like a father and daughter on a sitcom. At the swimming trials, when Torres talked about tapering, Lohberg asked "From what?" It is one of those charming relationships that you see in sports.

These days, however, Lohberg is in Bethesda, Md., at the National Institutes of Health. Just before he was scheduled to depart for the Olympics, Lohberg fell ill. Doctors have diagnosed him with aplastic anemia, a potentially life-threatening illness.

That story, too, has been lost in the suspicion.

Benefit of the doubt

Why should people suspect Torres? That one's easy. After all the drug scandals, we are a suspicious nation. The truth is that, no, we don't believe in miracles. Remember Michelle Smith, the Irish swimmer whom everyone suspected long before she tested positive? She was putting up numbers at an unprecedented age, too. We have lived through Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Marion Jones and those suspicions, too.

Why should people give her the benefit of the doubt? Because Torres has volunteered for above-and-beyond testing with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, allowing it to test her any time it wants in whatever way (blood, urine, hair, DNA) it wishes.

Believe what you will. Believe she is a swimming freak who has the perfect body for her sport. Or believe she is cutting a corner because she knows she won't be caught.

As for me, I believe Torres is going to win another medal today. I believe she's going to take less than 25 seconds to do it.

Also, I believe that if there is any way possible, you should suspend your suspicions for that long. Just to enjoy the show.

In Sports

No. 7 for Phelps

Michael Phelps wins his seventh gold medal, tying Mark Spitz's record. Phelps has one race left. 9C

Revel in Dara Torres' Olympic story for the ages 08/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2008 2:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.

  3. Rays journal: Chris Archer eager for eventful final stretch

    The Heater

    TORONTO — RHP Chris Archer takes the mound today for the Rays as they head into the final 40 games of the season with little margin for error as they battle for an American League playoff spot.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) takes a moment on the mound in the second inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
  4. Tim Tebow's slump continues, as does fan support


    CLEARWATER — On July 29, playing against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Tim Tebow smacked a mammoth three-run homer, helping the St. Lucie Mets cruise to a 10-3 victory at Charlotte Sports Park.

    St. Lucie’s Tim Tebow, shown Monday at Spectrum Field, struggled at the plate Wednesday against the Threshers.
  5. Rays at Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. Thursday

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    4:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)

    JAYS: RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 1.69)