Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bengay
The Olympic team swimming trials wrapped up last night in Omaha, Nebraska, where the country’s biggest names in the sport -- including Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Amanda Beard and Natalie Coughlin -- battled it out for 26 coveted slots on both the men’s and women’s teams.
Among those competing was 45-year-old Dara Torres, the only swimmer from the United States to have competed in five Olympic Games. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Torres, at age 41, was not only the oldest swimmer to ever make the Olympic team, but she also took home three silver medals.
Her quest to break her own record by making the 2012 team, unfortunately ,fell short last night when Torres finished fourth in the final of the 50-meter freestyle -- missing out on what would have been her sixth trip to the Olympic Games by just nine-hundredths of a second. "This is really over," Torres said last night, adding that she's now retiring. "That's it, I'm going to enjoy some time with my daughter, have a nice summer and cheer on the U.S. team."
When iVillage caught up with the single mom (to 6-year-old daughter Tessa, with ex David Hoffman) and Bengay brand ambassador before she headed to Omaha, she dished on the inspiration behind her latest Olympic bid, the trials of being a working mom, and why being the oldest is actually “kind of awesome.”
Congrats on your bid for a sixth Olympics! What made you want to compete again?
There’s a lot of variables, but first was my coach Michael Lohberg, who passed away last year. He wanted me to try for one more Olympics. Despite the obstacle of a major knee surgery and my age, he wanted me to do this and I thought, "Why not?" And I get inspired by people coming up to me saying that I inspire them, that they’ve done things they normally wouldn’t have done because they saw what I was able to accomplish.
Being a single mom is no easy task. How do you balance training and motherhood?
In my past I’ve looked to working parents for insight and inspiration. I think what’s most important is finding what’s best for you and your child. When your kids are younger it’s not as bad, but when they start talking and have formed a bond with you, it’s more difficult when you have to dash off to work. I’m lucky to have a coach now that allows me to work out after getting (my daughter) Tessa up and off to school.
Tell us about your training.
I head to pool at 8 a.m. and swim for two hours a day, five days a week. Four days a week I spend two hours on upper and lower body gym workouts. And then there’s always the stretching after training. In total I’m working out four to six hours a day.
The media makes a lot of your age. How do you grapple with getting older?
I always say that I’d almost rather have the injuries I had in ’08 than the hormones I’m dealing with now! But you know what, I’m proud of my age and the fact that I'm trying to do something no one has ever done before. I thrive on a challenge, it motivates me. I have more bad days than good days, but I’m still having fun. And it’s okay being the oldest, it’s kind of awesome, actually.
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When you’re not training, what do you do to stay fit?
I take it easier on myself when I’m not training, but obviously I have a goal right now, so if I have aches and pains I swim through it. When I’m off season though, I usually go outside and try to do something physical at least five times a week. But I love exercise, I love the way you feel during and after exercising. If you’re stressed out and have a problem, go exercise. You still feel better afterwards, even if your problem isn’t solved.
When it comes to your diet, how strict are you? Can you eat whatever you want?
I actually don’t like fish -- I don’t eat what I am! I don’t deprive myself of food, but I also don’t eat a ton. If there is a cupcake sitting on the counter and I want it, I will have a bite or two. But if I deprived myself of cupcakes for months, then I’d probably devour one if I saw it. So, satisfying cravings is more important than depriving yourself. I try to eat healthy, veggies, protein and dairy -- balanced meals. But I’m like everyone, I have cravings.
How do you make exercising and eating right fun for your daughter?
Oh my god, my daughter is the most hard-headed person I know to try to get her to eat anything other than mac and cheese is tough! Her dad is very healthy too and we’re both totally stumped by her. So I focus on keeping her active. I’m going to sound like a psycho mom, but I’ve got her doing something every day after school -- soccer, swimming, dance. It’s only for 45 minutes or an hour, but I think it’s better for her to have activity in her life rather than have her sitting on the couch at home.
What is the best part of participating in the Olympics and the worst part?
Obviously being up there and competing against all the top athletes in the world, there is no better stage to do that than in the Olympics. You go and you fight in your races to come out on top and you’re representing your country. It’s really incredible, there is no worst part.
Courtney Thompson is iVillage’s senior homepage producer. Follow her on Twitter: @courtneythomp.
Watch another Olympic hopeful, tae kwon do champ Diana Lopez, and hear about the pressures she faces coming from a family of Olympians: