By Gabby Ahlzadeh
At the age of 40, alumna and national swimming champion Dara Torres â85 is currently training for the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite skepticism regarding her abilities at her age, Torres is improving her times and has just recently won her 15th national swimming title, posting her best time in the 50-meter freestyle at the USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis this past summer, just 15 months after the birth of her daughter, Tessa.
As the oldest national swimming champion in history, Torres is especially excited âto make a fifth Olympic Team and [to] be able to share it with my daughter one day,â she said.
Torres won her first gold medal in her first Olympic appearance in 1984. Since then, she has won eight other Olympic medals.
âThe  Olympics will probably be a little different because now that Iâm a little older, I can appreciate them more,â she said. âI hear the pool is beautiful, so I canât wait to hopefully get a chance to swim in it.â
Though Torresâ return to swimming has been severely doubted because of her age, she says that she uses the negativity and criticisms as fuel.
âThose who know me know what I can do and thatâs all that counts, so I donât feel like I have to respond to my critics,â she said.
Torres hopes to inspire others her age âwho might have put something off, maybe give them a little push to do whatever it is they put off so they realize that age is just a number.â
Torres plans on competing in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter freestyle races at the Olympic trials, two of the more popular races among swimmers.
In terms of competition, Torres is first looking to make the team and then afterwards, will focus on the âAustralians, Swedes and Netherland girls,â simply saying that it âshould be fun though because I love competing.â
Nevertheless, her top priority is raising her 20-month-old daughter Tessa, saying that the first thing she thinks of in the mornings is âwhat to feed Tessa and what clothes to put her in.â
Athletic Director Darlene Bible, who coached Torres during her high school years, commented that âif anyone could make a comeback at the age of 40, it would be Dara,â she said. â[Torres] is a great athlete, and her natural talent in the water is exceptional.â
Torres was also a member of the CIF championship volleyball and basketball teams, in addition to setting CIF swimming records that still stand to this day.
If Torres does make the 2008 Olympic Team, she will be the first person to ever compete in five Olympic Games.
âI have my airplane ticket to Beijing, because I want to be there when she makes history,â Bible said, who emails and communicates with Torres regularly.Â
âIâve enjoyed every Olympics Iâve been to,â Torres said. âAnd the great thing is that once you are an Olympian, you are always an Olympian.â