My “Really, Really Middle-Aged Woman” Hero

She was the keynote speaker at More magazine’s Reinvention Convention in Chicago three years ago. I vaguely knew who she was but wasn’t expecting that much from an athlete. She blew me away that day with her grace, humor, determination and character (not to mention those abs!!). She blew me away even more this past week with her performance at the U.S. Olympic trials.

At the age of 45, competing against swimmers less than half of her age, Dara Torres missed a spot on her sixth Olympic team in the 50-meter freestyle by less than a tenth of a second. Torres won a total of 12 medals in the 1984, ’88, ’92, 2000 and 2008 Summer Games. This includes three silver medals at the Beijing Olympics at the age of 41, which she started training for shortly after giving birth to her now six-year-old daughter, Tessa. Referring to herself as a “really, really middle-aged woman”, Torres had knee surgery in 2009 to combat osteoarthritis. Last year, her coach, Michael Lohberg, passed away from a rare blood disorder.

But after her last race at the Olympic trials, Torres offered no excuses. Her tweets evidence the strength of her character:

“Well, I gave it everything I’ve got & left no stones unturned. Time to cheer on all the amazing USA swimmers heading to London!”

“I guess it’s time to figure out what I wanna do when I grow up!”

Thanks to Dara Torres, when I go to the gym this morning to do my 45-minute run, I won’t let the fact that I’m surrounded by people half my age bother me. And I won’t use the surgical scars on my knee or any of life’s other hard knocks as an excuse to not work hard. Thanks to Dara Torres, us “really, really middle-aged women” know that with strength, determination and a healthy dose of humor, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

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