“The water doesn’t really know what age you are, so it doesn’t really matter when you hit the water what age you are,” the 41-year-old said after anchoring the U.S. team to 4x100 meters freestyle relay silver.
No other swimmer has won an Olympic swimming medal beyond the age of 40 and Torres also equaled the all-time women’s record held by German canoeist Birgit Fischer of winning Olympic medals over a 24 years span.
The first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympics, Torres has a two-year-old daughter and has twice come out of retirement to add to her medal collection.
The 10th of her Olympic career came 24 years after she won her first gold in the same event at the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games, before most of her rivals at the Water Cube were born.
“There are a lot of middle aged women and men I know that contacted me, emailed or stopped me in the street to tell me that I am an inspiration to them and are now doing things that they thought they couldn’t do,” she said.
“Age is really just a number and I’m hoping that my age paves the way for other athletes, who maybe think they are too old to do something, to get back in or continue in the sport.”
While Torres stretched her record as the oldest swimmer to win an Olympic medal, Australian teenager Cate Campbell was savoring her first after the world champions took bronze.
“It’s just bizarre. I think I might be older than her parents, I’m not sure,” said Torres, who quit after the 1992 Barcelona Games and then came back to take five medals in Sydney in 2000 before again retiring to start a family.
“I met her for the first time in coming to the ready room, I introduced myself to the Australians because I’ve never even met Libby (Trickett) before.
“It was nice to meet them. She (Campbell) just looks so young and innocent.”
“It’s a great feeling. It didn’t even hit me,” she added of her 10th medal.
“I was just looking at the medal and thinking how beautiful it is...it’s true. I do have 10. But I think Michael Phelps is going to race past me here.”
Phelps, who refers to Torres jokingly as his Mom, got his bid for an unprecedented eight golds at a single Games under way in record time with the 400 individual medley title.
The American won six golds and two bronzes in Athens four years ago.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.