By Tito Morales
DARA Torres is going to yet another Olympic Games! This time, though, the swimming legend will leave the record-chasing to others.
Torres, 37, will be in Athens covering the Games for NBC’s High Definition broadcast, and she insists that there are no more pool comebacks in her future.
“I’m glad with where I am right now,” she says, during a break in the action at the recent Janet Evans Invitational. “I think the Olympics will be a little tough to watch, but then I start remembering the 5:30 a.m. workouts and the twice-a-days and I remind myself that I never want to go through that again.”
Four Olympic Trials appearances. Four Olympic Games. Nine Olympic medals, including four golds… When it comes to the Games, there seems to be no end to Torres’ list of accomplishments.
The Olympics have been such an intimate part of her life, that some find it impossible to separate the athlete from the event. But if there’s ever been a former swimmer who has demonstrated a rich, diverse life away from the pool, it’s Torres.
A Passion Re-Ignited
For seven years, during the early to late 1990’s, Torres played the role of a successful former Olympian quite well. She became, among other things, a model, television commentator, motivational speaker, and one of recent history’s most recognizable infomercial spokespersons.
Torres recounted her swimming exploits on countless occasions.
“What did it feel like to be an Olympian?” “How did it taste to have reached your lifelong goals?” “How did it sound to stand atop the podium and hear the National Anthem?”
Then, one day, Torres decided she could do more than just continue to relate the dream-like experience. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, she just might be able to relive it.
“I didn’t realize how much I loved the sport until I was out of it for so long,” Torres explains. “And once I got back into it and was doing it, I loved it so much that it became a passion again.”
Her return was undertaken almost as a whim, she confesses. “But once it came into my head I couldn’t get it out.”
It’s Getting To Be That Time Again
It’s difficult to imagine the range of emotions that must be going through Torres’ mind as this year’s Olympic Trials and Games draw near.
Four years ago she pulled off the unimaginable. She not only came back to claim a cherished spot on the U.S. team, but she then went on to earn five medals, including three relay golds.
Surely the immediacy of the coming quadrennial must provide her with a sense of nostalgia — especially since her success in the Games translated to her winning nine total medals, the second most among women in U.S. Olympic history.
And so, too, there must be a physiological side to things — a pre-programmed quickening of the pulse, an aching in the chest, or a subliminal deepening of the breath.
But Torres reiterates time and again that Sydney officially closed a chapter of her life. She explains that she rarely, if ever, dreams about competitive swimming. “Now I train very easy,” she says. “ I never try to go fast.”