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Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres: New Life, New Book

The silver medalist talks about her training regimen, as well as how she raises her young daughter.
WebMD Magazine

At the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, Dara Torres, 41, became the oldest swimmer to ever make the U.S. team. But she didn’t just make the team -- she came home with three silver medals. Five months later, WebMD Magazine caught up with Torres to talk about her new book and her life since making her big splash.

Last summer, you proved to the world that Age Is Just a Number—the title of your new book, coming out in April. Does this mean you’ll be aiming for a spot on the Olympic team in London in 2012?

I’ve learned after all these years to never say “never.” But at my age you have to take everything day by day. You have to listen to your body… [Currently] I’m training for Nationals, and will hopefully make the World Championship team [in 2009].

At 33, you were also the oldest member of the U.S. swim team in Sydney in 2000. Did you ever dream you would be able to compete 8 years later?

No. It wasn’t even a thought. I remember walking out of the arena in Sydney and a reporter said, “are you going to do that [again]?,” and I just thought that was a stupid question. So no, that never crossed my mind.

Health-wise, what’s the most difficult part of competing at your age?

Recovery, probably, and the pounding on your joints and muscles.

You have a daughter, Tessa, who will be 3 in April. How is your body different after having a child?

The first thing I noticed was that I was more flexible. Everything loosens up in your body. I assumed my hips would get wide, but I’m probably narrower in the hips now. I’m not sure why.

What do you do on your day off?  

Nothing. In the past I would go for a bike ride. One of my days off is Sunday, so I spend the day with my daughter. It’s all about catching up: paying bills, going to the bank, running errands.

What is your worst health habit?

Sugar. I love anything with sugar in it, whether it’s dessert, candy, or chocolate.

How important is nutrition in your training? 

Very important. I don’t deprive myself of certain foods. I’ll have a bite of something. But I’ve hired someone to cook so that I’ll know that I’m eating properly. At my age it’s about recovery, and eating well helps you recover faster.

Why did you feel the need to volunteer for enhanced drug screening, offering up DNA, hair and blood in addition to the standard urine tests?

Because there were athletes who came before me who would look the media in the eye and lie. And I can tell people until I’m blue in the face and they won’t believe me. Nowadays, you’re guilty until proven innocent, and I wanted to prove that I wasn’t doing drugs, and that I could do this the right way.

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