OMAHA — Dara Torres found Michael Phelps at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Wednesday night and had four words for him.
“Welcome to the club.”
Phelps, by winning the 200m butterfly at Trials, joined Torres as the only swimmers to make five U.S. Olympic teams. Those who made four — Amanda Beard, Jason Lezak, Ryan Lochte, Jill Sterkel and Jenny Thompson.
Torres, a 12-time Olympic medalist who retired twice before making the 2008 Olympic team at age 41, noted a similarity between her and Phelps’ fifth Games.
“He can share this with his son one day,” said Torres, whose daughter, Tessa, was 2 years old when she earned three silver medals in Beijing. “That’s the one thing I was excited about when I had my daughter in ‘08. When she is old enough to understand it, I can share it with her.”
Phelps and Torres have known each other since at least the 2000 Sydney Games, when Phelps was the youngest U.S. swimmer at 15 and Torres was the oldest at 33. Phelps jokingly called Torres “mom” while in Australia.
“I don’t even think he had hair on his body yet,” Torres said last year. “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.
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Torres saw Phelps again last summer at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio, where Phelps posted the fastest times in the world for the year in the 100m and 200m butterflies and the 200m individual medley.
She almost didn’t recognize him.
A man with a big, bushy beard walked by her at a hotel and said, “Hey.” Torres paused for a second in confusion before turning around and realizing it was Phelps (before he shaved for his races). They shared breakfast.
“He told me he was doing better and enjoying swimming again,” Torres said. “He was relaxed, mellow. Maybe he just woke up.”
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