By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, December 7. IF anyone in the world knows something about the demands of a comeback, it's Dara Torres. For proof, look no further than the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, where Torres collected five medals after returning to the sport after a lengthy hiatus. Well, the four-time Olympian (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000) is in the midst of another comeback.
And, this latest return can already be deemed as quite impressive.
Over the weekend, while racing in the short-course Holiday Classic in Coral Gables, Fla., Torres shattered a pair of Masters world records in the 35-39 age group. Now 39 and the mother of a seven-month old, Torres clocked in at 25.10 for the 50-meter freestyle and 54.95 for the 100 free. The 50 free mark broke the record of 26.13, set in 1995 by Sandy Neilsen-Bell. Meanwhile, her 100 free time blasted the 2000 record of 57.65, set by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen.
The fact that Torres registered a pair of world-record swims in the 35-39 category is impressive in itself. But, the fact that the records arrived in her last year in the age group make them all the more dazzling. More, her swims are world-class for any age group and provide evidence that Torres might be a factor on the national scene in the near future.
Torres has indicated that she'll make a run at a fifth Olympic berth, and if successful, she'd be a 41-year-old member of the team by the time the Beijing Games roll around. While it will be difficult to qualify as an individual in the 50 or 100 freestyle, the opportunity to earn one of six bids for the 400 free relay is enticing and achievable.
In her last return, Torres worked her way to a five-medal haul at the Sydney Olympics, claiming gold in the 400 medley and 400 free relays and taking bronze medals in the 50 and 100 freestyles, along with the 100 butterfly. Torres still holds American records in the 50 free and 100 fly and her presence on a pool deck would certainly cause her competitors to sweat.
Not only is Torres producing exceptional swims as she knocks on the door to 40, she should be equally applauded for her almost unbelievable longevity. When Torres first broke onto the national stage, she was a teenager destroying age-group records. Now, she's a veteran force who has an obvious connection to the fountain of youth.