Ageless Torres yet again in Games
Posted: Monday, July 7, 2008 4:37 pm
By: By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The rehearsal is over. Now Michael Phelps, Katie Hoff, Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Lochte are taking their show on the road to the Beijing Olympics.
The quartet was idle on the final night of the U.S. trials Sunday, getting a rare moment to enjoy their accomplishment of qualifying for multiple Olympic events.
Meanwhile, Dara Torres made the biggest splash at the eight-day trials, winning the 50- and 100-meter freestyles at age 41. She also could potentially swim two relays.
“It’s a lot of swimming,” she said. “I am 41; I am realistic.”
She’ll be the oldest American ever to swim at the Olympics — her record fifth — but she wants so much more.
“I can’t sit here and lie and say, ‘Oh, I’m just glad I’m going,’” said Torres, who again took 2-year-old daughter Tessa to the awards stand. “I want a medal.”
Torres won the 50 free Sunday in 24.25 seconds to lower the American record of 24.38 she set the previous night in the semifinals.
“I was hoping to go somewhat fast, because they have girls in the world that are going 24.1s and 23.9,” she said. “I have five more weeks to try to drop a couple tenths to hopefully be in competition with those girls.”
Torres has already done what no one thought possible, returning from her second retirement to reclaim her place as America’s most dominant female sprinter.
She was so focused on making the team that she tuned out media reports on her feats and instead got a sense of her impact through e-mails.
“From people and from friends of friends who have said that they feel like they can go out and do things that they’ve put off, they thought they couldn’t do,” Torres said. “I feel like I’m being inspired by all the people that are e-mailing and talking to me.”
Jessica Hardy finished second to Torres in 24.82, claiming the other Olympic berth in the 50 free. She’ll also be in the 100 breaststroke and the 400 free relay.
Phelps, of course, will be the busiest in Beijing. He earned another shot at Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals and will swim in eight events — five individual and all three relays.
“You guys talk about that,” he told reporters, referring to Spitz’s record. “I just get in the water and do what I love to do, and that’s compete.”
Spitz endorsed Phelps at the trials as a worthy successor, suggesting that after 36 years, it’s time for someone else to take his mantle.
Mark Schubert, the head coach and general manager of the U.S. team, expressed confidence in Phelps.
“He’s a performer,” he said. “As the stage gets bigger, his performances get better.”
Hoff also made it in five individual events, and she’ll swim a relay, too.
Coughlin, a five-time medalist in Athens, will swim three individual events, as will Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay, Phelps’ training partner in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In the 1,500 free, Vanderkaay pulled off a major upset by beating U.S. record holder Larsen Jensen and top qualifier Erik Vendt.
Jensen set the early pace in swimming’s version of the mile, but he began to tire about two-thirds of the way into the grueling race.
Everyone expected Vendt to challenge, but he apparently wore himself out by swimming the preliminaries Saturday in 14 minutes, 50.24 seconds — more than 12 seconds faster than anyone else.
Instead, it was Vanderkaay who overtook Jensen and held on to win in 14:45.54, just off Jensen’s national mark of 14:45.29.
Jensen took the second Olympic spot in 14:50.80, while Vendt struggled to the wall in fourth at 15:07.78, also trailing Chad La Tourette.
“My effort was there, it’s just that extra something wasn’t,” said Vendt, a silver medalist in the 400 individual medley at the last two Olympics who will have to be content with a possible relay spot in Beijing.