Dara Torres
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Swimmer Dara Torres ready for boxing debut

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Dara Torres thought her first boxing match would be fun.

Women don’t hit too hard, she believed, and boxing gloves are soft.

That mindset quickly changed after a punch from her sparring partner.

“I got hit so hard on the side of my mouth that I couldn’t close my jaw for three or four days,” Torres said in a recent telephone interview.

Torres, 49, is scheduled to make her boxing debut in an event for Haymakers for Hope billed as “Belles of the Brawl” on Wednesday in Boston. She has raised more than $18,000 of her $20,000 goal to fight cancer after losing her father, Edward, to colon cancer (donate here).

The 12-time Olympic swimming medalist discovered boxing as a way to get back into shape after knee surgery. Despite being someone who regularly attends 50-minute spin classes and swims for up to 90 minutes, Torres could barely finish two-minute rounds of sparring.

“Two-minute rounds are distance events for me,” said Torres, who completed all of her individual Olympic swimming finals in less than one minute. “I have to pace myself and not go too fast, too hard, too quickly or I’ll be exhausted.”

Torres solicited advice from Laila Ali, a fellow host on the talk show “We Need to Talk.” Ali, a former professional boxer and the daughter of Muhammad Ali, encouraged Torres to take advantage of her reach. Torres is about an inch taller than her opponent, Sue Bator, a chemical engineer.

“It won’t be easy to hit me because my arms are so long,” Torres said.

Torres is hoping that she will be fast enough to dance around the ring, since her knee issues will prevent her from ducking to avoid punches. But her trainer, Jessica Smith, keeps reminding her that she needs to land punches to score points.

“I’m not super aggressive,” Torres said. “But if [my opponent] does something to upset me, I think it will spark something in me to want to fight her.”

One of Torres’ biggest challenges has been to put on enough weight to reach 150 pounds. She has been drinking protein shakes and eating steaks, hamburgers and fries, but as of Monday afternoon, she weighed 149.2 pounds.

“I am still going to need to really chow down to make weight,” she said.

Torres expects to have 30-40 friends in attendance at the fight, including two-time Olympic swimming medalist Elizabeth Beisel. Torres compared her nerves to the feeling before swimming in an Olympic final.

“I think I’m going to be sick to my stomach,” she said. “I’m not in my element. My element is in the pool.”

Torres is confident that Wednesday’s fight will be her first and last boxing match. But she is proud that she has scarified so much to raise funds to defeat cancer.

“[Boxing] is something I don’t particularly like and it’s a hard, hard sport,” Torres said. “But it’s something that can bring more awareness and raise money to help fight this fight against cancer.”

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Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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