By Christina | July 11, 2009
Dara Torres winning another race the other day is not in itself newsworthy, even if that race happens to have been at Nationals and makes her eligible to compete in Worlds. What continues to make Dara Torres a compelling sports story and human interest story is her ongoing ability to beat the odds and silence the naysayers who say that her time to shine has finally faded.
She is 42 years old and competing against swimmers that were not even born when she won her first Olympic medal back in 1984. In a sport dominated by phenoms like Michael Phelps, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Dara Torres has successfully competed in a total of five Olympics. The fact that she is still competing is mindblowing in itself, but the fact that she is still winning and on top of her game is purely awe-inspiring.
When Dara Torres competed and won the silver medal in Beijing, her story hit a personal chord with me at that time. I was 41 like her, had a baby at the time (my third), and was making a comeback of my own. I have spent my career in fitness and have always been in good shape. But, when most group exercise instructors at my age are hanging up their sneakers about now, I got into the best shape of my life and continue to have standing room only in my classes. When I look back at my 20 year old self, I can’t help but think that she had nothing on the 41 year old that I am today because of hard work, discipline, and a lot of sweat.
The Dara Torres that competed and won at Nationals the other day made an even greater impression on me than the Beijing Olympics Dara Torres. Not only is she a year older, but this time she had nothing left to prove. She already made her comeback at Beijing and prevailed. This time on her path to yet another Olympics, her personal story is truly personal. She is swimming for herself.
That said, she still has a stronghold on the 40+ women demographic like me cheering her on. At Nationals she won even though she was sporting a bum knee. Sprinting through the water, she didn’t even remember that she had a torn tendon and an arthritic knee until she had to painstakingly make her way back to the locker room after her race. The beautiful thing about her victory, too, is that for those 24.43 seconds in the competition pool, she probably also didn’t remember that she is 42 years old.
I say to Dara Torres on behalf of women everywhere, “You go girl!” With female athletes like her that are not only in it for the long haul, but are in it to win it, what’s our excuse to be a slacker?