Dara Torres isn’t your typical Olympic swimmer. At 41, she continues to break records as she embarks on her fifth Olympics in Beijing. (Her Olympic career began in 1984 at age 17.) Shocked and overjoyed after making the trials, Dara is a fighter. Having had shoulder and knee surgery within the last year, Dara claims that she’s getting better with age. OK! spoke to the incredible swimmer about her hopes for Beijing and her extraordinary body.
At 25, you retired, saying you were too old. How does it make you feel now?
I remember they called me the grandma on that team. I think they’re too scared to come out and say what they want to call me now.
What do you eat before a big meet?
Living Fuel is a meal-replacement shake I have before all of my races. After workouts, I use fitness nutrition amino acid, which helps with recovery.
What’s your daily diet like?
I’m a meat-and-potatoes type of girl. I don’t deprive myself of anything. I eat small meals throughout the day.
Is it true you were bulimic at one point?
When I was in college, I was bulimic. I wasn’t fat, but our coach would want us at
a certain weight. It was really hard for me to make weight, so someone in the dorm showed me that, if you eat food and then regurgitate it, you could lose weight. That’s how it started. It became like an addiction. It lasted for five years, through my second Olympics. I had no energy whatsoever.
When did you finally get help?
After college, I decided I wanted to train for the 1992 Olympics. I basically stopped — I went cold turkey.
What would you say to someone facing that pressure now?
Never get near a scale! If you feel like you’re going down that road, get help. The first step is to admit you have this problem.
Will your 2-year-old daughter, Tessa, be joining you in Beijing?
I would love to have her go, but I wouldn’t be able to have her in the Olympic Village. I’ve been Skyping and iChatting her. I needed to teach the nanny how to do it.
What are your goals for Beijing?
I like to keep that to myself. I really want to go out there, have fun, soak up everything around me and enjoy it because it is my last Olympics, and I know that.
Are you still learning about your body?
It seems I’m getting better with age. The more knowledge you have about what your body can and can’t do, the better you become. My starts are horrible! You’d think after so many years, I would know how to do a start, but I’m still learning.
How is Olympics No. 5 different from Nos. 1 and 2?
I’m more mature. I get more nervous now than I did during my first Olympics. I just feel like more eyes are on me. I started reading the articles written on me, but then I stopped doing that.
Are you getting excited?
I’m really looking forward to competing. I’m the underdog. I’m the one that has to chase, not the one being chased. I love challenges, and there are a lot of people who say I can’t do this at my age, but I’m going to show them that I can.