WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American Dara Torres is still waiting for the big cry.
Three weeks after missing out on her sixth Olympics by .09 of a second, the 45-year-old swimmer said that while the agony is still raw, it has not fully found its way to the surface.
”I still feel like I haven’t had a good emotional cry about it,“ Torres told Reuters in a telephone interview. ”I got done, I went to dinner, got on a plane and it was sort of back on schedule again.
“I’ve had have little time to myself to be emotional about it. I think when I go to London, it might hit me a little bit.”
Torres, a 12-time Olympic medalist dating back to 1984, will head to the July 27-August 12 London Games as part of a corporate program to help children become more active and physically fit.
She expects her time there to be a sentimental adventure. Torres was retired when she traveled to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and to Athens for the 2004 Games.
“It was different then because I didn’t try for an Olympics,” she said. “This time I actually tried and I didn’t make the team. I‘m not sure what to expect. But I‘m sure it will be a little bit emotional for me.”
Torres, the mother of a 6-year-old girl, has won four gold medals during her illustrious Olympic career, which began in Los Angeles 28 years ago when she was just 17 years old.
She overcame reconstructive knee surgery and the death of her coach, Michael Lohberg, from a rare blood disorder to try for one last shot at reaching the Olympic starting blocks.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska, Torres needed to finish first or second in the 50 meters freestyle to qualify but could only manage fourth.
Despite competing against many swimmers young enough to be her children, Torres said she makes no apologies for her rare and remarkable journey.
”The way I live life is that I don’t have any regrets,“ she said. ”All of these experiences make you grow. One of the reasons I continue to swim is the challenge. I thrive on challenges.
“If something good doesn’t happen in my life, I learn from it, I grow from it.”
The highly anticipated 50-meter race at the trials was so close Torres could not tell if she hit the wall in time.
”I had absolutely no idea,“ she said. ”I was looking by the scoreboard but it was so far away. Then I saw the ‘4’ by my name and then I realized that was it. You heart just sinks a bit.
“It wasn’t like I had a super great shot to make the team but I had a shot. In years past I wanted to touch the wall first but this year I just wanted to finish second and make it.”
Despite the heartbreak, Torres, while still in the water, became a cheerleader for the U.S. swim team. Jessica Hardy, 25, and Kara Lynn Joyce, 26, grabbed the 50-meter spots.
”I‘m mature enough now to take everything in and be bummed but also be happy for the girls that made it,“ she said. ”I can’t say I was like that when I was 17.
“But being a mom and being a little bit older I was happy for them. You could see the excitement in their faces. I wanted to hug them and tell them to kick ass over there in London.”
Dara Torres will no longer swim competitively but that does not mean she is sitting around.
”I’ve been booked a bunch since the trials for motivational talks,“ she said. ”I love doing that. There are a couple of TV opportunities that are in the works. I‘m pretty busy.
“When I touched the wall, one of my first thoughts after not making the team was, ’ What am I going to do now?’ That though has definitely dissipated over the past few weeks.”
And how about just one more run for the Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016?
”Oh, noooo,“ she said with a laugh. ”I don’t think people understood how hard it was trying to make this team, not just the physical but the mental.
“Imagine having more bad workouts than good because you’re older and can’t recover as quickly. I gave this everything I had. It was so tough. I left no stones unturned. I‘m done.”
Editing by Frank Pingue