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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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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