Famous for her fitness and focus, swimmer Dara Torres has competed in five Summer Games over the past 26 years. Her dedication has paid off with 12 Olympic medals.
How did you get involved in swimming?
My parents had a pool in the backyard and wanted me to be water-safe, so I got in the water at an early, early age. I started swimming on a team at about age 7 or 8, and fell in love with standing up on the blocks and racing and competing.
What's your favorite swimming event?
The 50-meter freestyle. It's the most challenging event because you can't make a mistake. It's a 24-second zip down the pool, and your start and your finish all have to be on. I like how it goes by quickly, too. I'm a pure sprinter, so the shorter, the better.
Do you ever get nervous before a competition?
Oh my gosh, always! You'd think after all these years, I wouldn't. But it's a good thing. Nervousness is all about adrenaline, and you want that. If you feel like you've done everything you possibly can to prepare, you can go out there and channel that nervous energy and have fun. It doesn't mean the nervousness will go away, but you can channel it differently.
Have you always been really conscious of your health and conditioning?
Always. One of the reasons I didn't drink when I was younger is because I knew what it did to you. I'd see some of the swimmers at morning practice after a night of drinking – the way they looked and felt – and I really wanted to swim fast. I didn't want to be in that state the other athletes were in if they'd gone out and partied.
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