An Olympic Story For the Ages

The Beijing Olympics will start a month from today, and we've already started to hear the athletes' stories. Every four years, we learn about the Olympians who will represent our country at the Games and about the challenges they've had to overcome to excel at that level of competition. There is usually one constant: They are young people, in their teens or twenties, perhaps early thirties at the oldest, because world-class athletic performance is almost always the province of the young. Almost always.

This year, however, there is an exception: Dara Torres, a veteran Olympic swimmer who has won nine medals (four gold) in four past Olympic Games between 1984 and 2000. She is 41 years old, which in swimmer years is older than John McCain. But she is in phenomenal physical condition and is winning competitions at the American Olympic trials against women who are young enough to be her daughters. I saw a segment on the news early this morning about her, showing her training regimen, and I was very impressed. She will be the first American swimmer to compete in five different Olympics.

Like most Americans, I'm a "homer": I cheer for our athletes and hope that they win. I like to see them standing at the top of the dais as "The Star-Spangled Banner" plays in the background. But in this case, I'll be cheering a little harder, because she's not just representing America but middle-aged people as well. There are very few athletes who not only still can compete at that elite level in their early 40s, but win the competitions and break their own records for the event. Torres did exactly that last August, twice breaking her own American record for the 50 meter freestyle that she set 26 years earlier at age 15.

It's a very inspirational story, and I hope that it has a golden ending for her.