Dara Torres picks greatest female swimmer(s) of all time, recalls teenage Michael Phelps, more in Q&A

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Dara Torres won’t be swimming at the 2016 Olympics, but her name will certainly arise on the road to Rio de Janeiro.

Torres holds the record for most U.S. Olympic swimming berths — five — which Michael Phelps can match next year. In 2000, Phelps and Torres were the youngest and oldest members of the U.S. Olympic swim team. The 15-year-old Phelps memorably called the 33-year-old Torres “mom” at those Sydney Games.

Torres shares the record for most Olympic medals earned by a U.S. woman in any sport — 12 — with swimmers Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin, 32, is still active and could surpass Torres if she makes her fourth Olympic team next year.

Many may remember Torres from the Beijing 2008 Games, when she took silver in the 50m freestyle, missing her first individual Olympic gold medal by .01 of a second. Still, Torres broke her American record by .18. No American has since bettered it, and it’s the second-longest-standing women’s American record in an Olympic event.

Some may remember Torres for her role in the Tae-Bo infomercials of the 1990s. One person who apparently has little to no knowledge of that slice of her career is Torres’ daughter, Tessa, who was 2 years old during the Beijing Olympics and is now a 9-year-old swimmer.

Torres still swims regularly and gives back to the sport through efforts such as SwimToday, which she promoted on a visit to New York on Wednesday. There, she shared some of her time with OlympicTalk.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

OlympicTalk: Who is your daughter’s favorite swimmer?

Torres: She loves Missy Franklin. How can you not? She’s the perfect role model — nice, outgoing, smart. She also likes Phelps and Lochte, adores them, and has posters of them on her wall in her room.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time you saw the current crop of swimmers at a meet?

Torres: I was at Nationals last year. This was the first time I was at a meet, and I was OK not swimming it. I obviously am very competitive, and I miss competing, but there was nothing in me that was like, oh, I wish I was up there. I was OK with it. I was able to take it in and enjoy it.

OlympicTalk: If you could be FINA president, what would you change?

Torres: I would give back more money to the sports and the NGBs [national governing bodies]. It’s such a fine line because the Olympics are supposed to be amateur sport, yet when you’re done with college, you can get paid. I see a lot of the NGBs doing fundraisers so the kids can go to the different competitions. It should be where there should be enough money for the athletes. They should have the best of the hotels. It seems like a lot of times sports don’t have the money to supply for their athletes.

OlympicTalk: What do you think of mixed-gender relays being added for the World Championships this summer?

Torres: I would love to see first and foremost the shorter events in the Olympics [50m backstroke, 50m breaststroke, 50m butterfly]. My best event growing up was the 50m freestyle, and my first Olympics, they didn’t have that event [at Los Angeles 1984]. The shortest event was the 100. Maybe I’m just biased because I’m a sprinter. They have them at the World Championships, but they don’t have them at the Olympics. I would like to see that first [at the Olympics], before seeing mixed relays.

OlympicTalk: Do you still swim competitively at the masters level?

Torres: I swim on Cambridge Masters [Swim Club] at Harvard, but I don’t swim meets. Since I’ve retired I’ve had two knee surgeries and now this [a wrist injury]. I haven’t really had a chance to be healthy and compete, but I told Cambridge Masters that if it got to a point where they needed me on a relay, I’d be happy to help out.

OlympicTalk: Who do you consider the greatest female swimmer of all time?

Torres: From when I grew up, probably Tracy Caulkins. Now, we’ll see what happens, but probably Missy Franklin. It doesn’t diminish what anyone else does, because you look at Katie Ledecky, and the times she’s going are just incredible. For me, being able to do all the different strokes is amazing. I can see a swimmer walking on the deck, and I can tell by looking at them what they swim. Freestyle and butterfly were my best strokes. I couldn’t swim breaststroke if they paid me. But you see the athletes who can do all the different strokes, that’s incredible.

OlympicTalk: Does Tessa ever watch your races on tape or YouTube?

Torres: She goes to YouTube all the time. She doesn’t watch them on tape, because I don’t think she knows what tape is, unfortunately. She knows what DVR is, but back when I swam they didn’t have DVR. Her and her friends watch my races. I think she also likes to see because leading up to and after 2008, I had a lot of shoots where she was in the shoots. So I think she likes to show her friends that she was on TV, too. I didn’t know that she does it, and then I go to the history of her phone and see it on there. Oh, that little devil.

OlympicTalk: Has Tessa seen any of your Tae-Bo videos?

Torres: No, and until the ’08 Olympics I was known as the Tae-Bo girl. Then I was back being a swimmer again. I had been to four Olympics, and people still didn’t know who I was. I don’t think she [Tessa] knows about Tae-Bo, since it’s tape, not digital.

OlympicTalk: Do you have any interesting stories from 15-year-old Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics?

Torres: I don’t even think he had hair on his body yet. He was so young. I’ll never forget, I still had the 50m freestyle left, and he swam his race [placing fifth in the 200m butterfly]. He was there the next day training. I was kidding around, and I went up to his coach, and I didn’t know Bob Bowman that well at all, but I said, “Doesn’t this kid ever get a break?” He was like, “No, he’s training for 2004 now.” I was like, oh my gosh. He was so serious, Bob was. I couldn’t believe it, but as the years went on and the accomplishments he made, you understand the psyche and why he was doing that.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at Sydney 2000

OlympicTalk: You’ve been involved in swimming for so long and have so many opportunities and pitches, so what about SwimToday is so special?

Torres: The fact that parents aren’t educated enough to know how wonderful the sport is really caught my eye. Eighty percent of parents who have their children in swim lessons growing up don’t think of swimming as a youth sport [to continue in after learning how to swim]. I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbfounded at those stats. I really want to educate parents how wonderful the sport of swimming is.

Dara Torres reflects on her favorite swimming rival, Olympic race

Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic Alpine champ, has testicular cancer, ‘prognosis good’

Aksel Lund Svindal
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Aksel Lund Svindal, a retired Olympic Alpine skiing champion from Norway, said he underwent surgery for testicular cancer and the prognosis “looked very good.”

“Tests, scans and surgery all happened very quickly,” Svindal, 39, wrote on social media. “And already after the first week I knew the prognoses looked very good. All thanks to that first decision to go see a doctor as soon as I suspected something was off.”

Svindal retired in 2019 after winning the Olympic super-G in 2010 and downhill in 2018. He also won five world titles among the downhill, combined and giant slalom and two World Cup overall titles.

Svindal said he felt a change in his body that prompted him to see a doctor.

“The last few weeks have been different,” he wrote. “But I’m able to say weeks and not months because of great medical help, a little luck and a good decision.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, or if it was anything at all. … [I] was quickly transferred to the hospital where they confirmed what the doctor suspected. Testicle cancer.”

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final