Mark Zeigler at the San Diego Tribune reveals more about 41 year-old Dara Torres who finished 2nd in the 50 freestyle today. A few days ago we emailed each other about Mark Spitz' attempt to return to glory at age 39 to 41. Spitz practiced intensely with the UCLA swim team, however could not qualify for the US team at age 41, swimming significantly slower than age 20. Torres, however simws faster at 41 than she did at 21. (graphics from the New York Times)
A few years ago, a prominent U.S. swimmer ended a lengthy retirement and returned to the pool with the goal of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials. It didn't go well. The swimmer got dusted in a made-for-TV dual race, swimming more than a second slower than before over a mere 50 meters, and the comeback quickly descended into a watery grave, yet another grudging concession to Father Time.
A fellow by the name of Mark Spitz. He was 41. “I couldn't believe I swam that slow,” Spitz said in 1991. “It didn't feel slow.”
Now the opposite is true. Dara Torres made a comeback at age 41 after a lengthy retirement, and people can't believe she is swimming this fast.
The issue with Torres lies with her physique....it looks incredibly virginal for a 41 year-old. And depsite what the media would love to say about demolishing the limitations of age, those limitations exist in the DNA.
Either she is a freak of nature who should be celebrated for her athletic accomplishments at such a relatively advanced age and revered by 40-something mothers everywhere; who can retire for six years and swim faster at 41 than at 21; who can recover from shoulder surgery in November and knee surgery in January; who can look as if her head were photo-shopped on the taut body of an 18-year-old; and who can do it all with protein shakes and amino acids and anything else within the boundaries of anti-doping regulations.
Yes, overall humans look younger than they did 100 years ago. Antibiotics, and sewers, and aspirin, and CAT Scans produce longevity. But the fast twitch muscles decline with age. DNA has not changed: we continue to be born with 46 chromosomes.
Zeigler lists some reasons that Torres's feat is incredible:
- (Torres volunteered for extensive dope testing which is)...an admirable gesture, no doubt. But there's also this number: 160. That's how many drug tests, give or take, (Marion) Jones passed in her career.
- Here are some more: 20, 23, 19, 25, 22, 20, 19, 21, 24 and 24. Those are the ages of the swimming gold medalists in individual women's events in Beijing.
- ... the body's production of human growth hormone decreases an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent when you hit your 30s. It dips another 10 percent in your 40s.
Torres employs an army of coaches massage therapists, shoe shine boys etc. But these conncections are suspect:
Torres spends, by her estimate, about $100,000 annually on a team of coaches, chiropractors, masseuses, personal trainers and physical therapists.
Yahoo Sports recently reported that in 2003 her current coach, Michael Lohberg, sent swimmers to a Florida nutritionist accused of providing athletes – quarterback Tim Couch among them – with banned human growth hormone. Torres didn't begin working with Lohberg until 2006, and Lohberg insisted his swimmers never got growth hormone from the nutritionist, only protein shakes and amino acids.
Before the 2000 Olympics, Torres and a few other swimmers worked with Glen Luepnitz, a Texas nutritionist who was quoted in an Australian newspaper saying he gave athletes the banned substance MediTropin. Luepnitz said he was misquoted, but the IOC launched an investigation nonetheless.
Medtropin is a mixture of amino acids, which is no big deal. Protein shakes are likewise no big deal, and no reason to pay bucks to a protein shake coach. (protein shakes and amino acids, impressive! ha!) HGH, however, is a different story.
Compare the 5-1 1or 6-0/145 Torres with the 6'4" / 195 lbs Phelps. Who has the androgens here?
We will add some stats to indicate Torres is defying gravity, in a minute for part 2.