Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 11/13/11
MINNEAPOLIS Five-time Olympic swimmer Dara Torres likes a good challenge. That fact might be one of the biggest reasons she's still going strong as a 44-year-old, competing against women half her age. Even after a career that includes 12 Olympic medals, Torres is still trying to test herself. She's preparing for next summer's U.S. Olympic trials and hopefully her sixth Olympic games in London in 2012. "I just love the sport," Torres said Saturday at the Minneapolis Grand Prix. "I love competing. I guess I'm trying to defy the odds a little bit and sort of pushing the limits to see what I can do. It's been fun." Torres hopes to keep her streak of Olympic career going, while competing now in just one event, the 50-meter freestyle. She participated in the championship heat of the 50 freestyle at Saturday's Minneapolis Grand Prix, the first of seven stops as part of USA Swimming's Grand Prix series. Torres tied for third place in the women's 50 freestyle, touching the wall in 25.30 seconds. Amanda Weir won the event with a time of 25.04 seconds. Jessica Hardy was second in 25.10 and Kara Lynn Joyce tied Torres for third. Competing in the Minneapolis Grand Prix is just another chance to get more races in preparation for the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. "I'm trying to get some race experience," Torres said. "I know that sounds funny being that I'm 44-years old. When you're not in it for a while you just get really rusty. You think, Oh, you know. It's like riding a bike. You get up there and go.' But it's not. There's a lot of little things you sort of forget when you haven't been racing." During the preliminaries on Saturday morning, in the lane next to Torres was 16-year-old Missy Franklin, who has burst onto the swimming scene the past two years. Franklin placed sixth in the finals with a time of 25.59 and was amazed by meeting Torres for the first time on Saturday. "She blows my mind," Franklin said. "She is unbelievable. She is so powerful and so strong. I have no idea how she does it." Franklin was 13 and participated in the Olympic trials in 2008 when then 41-year-old Torres qualified for the Olympics in Beijing. The age comparisons aren't lost on Torres. "I look back and say, OK. I was 28 when she was born,'" Torres said. "I had already been to three Olympics and was closing in on my fourth. So, it's fun." Torres' career has already defied conventional logic. She's the only swimmer to ever appear in five Olympics and her Olympic career spans 24 years. But her latest challenge is what led her to Minnesota and the chance at getting another few races. Torres is recovering from major knee surgery two years ago. Doctors rebuilt and transferred cartilage to her left knee and hoped to stimulate more cartilage growth. Torres has been pleased with the results and is 24 months out in what doctors described as an 18- to 24-month recovery. "That was a nice big challenge to try to overcome," Torres said. "It's been tough, but it's been good. People think I can't do it and I guess I'm trying to prove to myself that I can and just see what I can do. I don't know if it's going to be like it was in 08, but I'm still having fun." In the 2008 Olympic Games, she broke her own American record in the 50 freestyle for the 10th time, earning a silver medal in 24.07, just .01 seconds behind gold medal winner Britta Steffen. She won three medals at the games, equaling Jenny Thompson for the most Olympic medals by a female swimmer. Torres said this will be her final attempt at qualifying for the Olympics. She doesn't shy away from the talk of her age. Instead, she hopes she can be an example for others. "It's the challenges that kind of keep me going," Torres said. "The fact that I'm trying to defy at my age what most people aren't doing. I think it gives hope to people my age to try and do stuff that they thought was impossible." Torres might be proving that nothing is impossible.
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