Dara Torres on her new book and new life

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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.

What’s your response to those who have accused you of using
performance-enhancing drugs? Do you find the accusations age-ist?

It’s very sad that when you do everything that you can to prove that you’re
clean that people are still making accusations. There’s nothing you can do. I
take it as a compliment, and that they must think I’m really fast to be doing
what I’m doing.

Your father passed away from colon cancer. What did you learn from the
experience, and what advice would you pass on to those with family members
battling the disease?  

If that type of cancer runs in your family, make sure you can get screened
early. It’s for your own health to do it.

Mentally, how do you prepare for a race? 

I feel like all my preparation is physical. I just try to go out there and
have fun. You should just go out there and do it.

What do you do for relaxation? 

I don’t really relax. I like going to movies and hanging out with friends.
My daughter has a lot of energy, so in the morning when we wake up I’ll watch
TV with her, or before she goes to bed.

Of the five senses, which do you value most and why?

Sight, because it’s such a beautiful place we live in. I would never want to
take being able to see for granted.

What disease or condition would you most like to see eradicated in your
lifetime, and why?

Cancer, because I’ve had family members and friends affected by it, and
that’s what hits home the most.

If you weren’t a professional athlete, what other goal would you have
pursued professionally? 

Something in the field of helping people. I’m not sure what.

How do you get yourself to work out when you don’t feel like it?

I just think about my goals. It’s a matter of getting over the first hump of
not wanting to go. But it’s never failed. Once I’m there I’m always glad I
went.