Dara Torres is Back in the Pool and Looking for Gold

Credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

*Editor's Note: This story was originally published in July 2000.

Dara Torres is teaching journalists a valuable lesson in patience.

Before the subject of one of the most compelling stories in U.S. swimming will grant any interviews after a swim, she must be properly warmed down and stretched, which can stretch into a rather long time.

Torres, 33, a four-time Olympic medalist who is looking to make a comeback in 2000, is one of the most well-conditioned athletes in her sport. Her diligence to her regimen is incredible. Just her stretching alone after a race can take over an hour.

The reporters who interview Torres do so because she has most often turned in yet another dominating performance in the pool. Since Torres began her comeback in the summer of 1999, she has become one of the top freestyle sprinters in the United States, challenging, and regularly beating, Olympic favorites like Jenny Thompson and Amy Van Dyken.

She will be one of the favorites to make the women's Olympic team in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events in Indianapolis.

The reporters want to know how she got to this level.

In the summer of 1999, Torres had been retired from swimming for six years. At the age of 25, Torres was simply tired of swimming and quit the sport. She signed with a modeling agency in New York and made a smooth transition to the pages of magazines and television.

In 1994 she became the first female athlete to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She also did TV work for ESPN, TNT, FOX and even the Discovery Channel.

"I enjoyed the Discovery Channel and ESPN," Torres said. "Everything I did in the TV industry was so much fun. But I wanted to come back."

In June 1999, she realized that despite her success outside of the pool, she truly missed the competition inside of it.

She was kicking the idea around in her head, knowing that if she made the Olympic team, she would become the first U.S. swimmer to participate in four Olympics. She called Richard Quick, the head coach of the Stanford University women's swimming team and the Olympic team. She had known Quick for 18 years and wanted him to be honest.

"I told her that she had to improve her technique," Quick said. "The way she swam before wasn't going to cut it. Her stroke was pretty, but not efficient. I told her that she would have to be totally committed to coming back."

He also admitted that his expectations weren't very high. Torres won all of her Olympic medals on relay teams, and had gained more notoriety for being the spokeswoman for the Tae-Bo fitness workout tapes than her exploits in the water.

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