Youth was served at the Olympic swimming trials Friday night. And experience savored the meal.
If you weren't weighted down by the double-volume tomes containing your swim resume, if you weren't signing autographs for your competitors who took up your events because they saw you on television, if you didn't have a pass into the masters events tucked away in your warm-up suit as a fallback option, well, you just didn't belong.
It was a banner night for some of the sport's banner names, many of whom are aging like Napa's finest.
"A night for the elders," joked Torres, who won the 100-meter freestyle Friday, at 41 in 53.78 seconds, securing a spot in the history books. In Beijing, she will be the first woman to swim in her fifth Olympics. As Torres reached the finish wall, ahead of Coughlin, five-hundredths back, she squinted, looking her age for the first time all night. "I didn't see the scoreboard," she said. "My eyes feel 41. They're going to have to make those numbers a little bigger for people my age." How long has Torres been at this? When she won a relay gold medal at the L.A. Games in 1984, the majority of swimmers competing at these trials were not yet born. Yet as she walked onto the pooldeck to receive her winner's medal, Torres thought of her father who had passed away 18 months ago and held her infant daughter in her arms. "In some ways," she said, "I'm like all the other swimmers here, because I still feel the passion for what I do. In some ways I'm like none of them because I've lived their lives twice." Phelps referred to Torres after the race as the team mother. "I like to refer to it as a big sister," Torres corrected. "Maybe an aunt."
During three years away from the competitive spotlight, Beard spent much of her time making modeling and television appearances. She was also giving herself a chance to avoid the burnout that comes with overtraining. In Omaha, she fell well behind
The result ruined the summer plans of the swimmer who was first seen clutching her teddy bear on the victory stand at the 1996 Atlanta Games. "I was planning a little trip up the coast with boyfriend and dogs and RV and now I have to put that on the backburner," she said.
Though Beard was seeded seventh in her event coming into the trials, the result hardly surprised her fellow veterans. "[Coach]
Peirsol faced another challenge from
Hall will have his chance to complete the seniors roster Saturday night in the finals of the 50-meter freestyle, which he will enter as a solid No. 4 seed, hunting for one of two Olympic berths. Not even diabetes and a steady diet of insulin injections have slowed one of the sport's great characters and clutch performers. In March, Hall was in a New York hospital, making children with diabetes feel comfortable by injecting himself in front of them and telling them there was nothing they couldn't do because he was proof a diabetes patient could win the Olympic 50-meter freestyle at age 29. But now at 33? "It's okay," Hall jokes. "The deductible on my insurance re-sets every year." On Friday, Hall qualified fourth in 21.94 seconds. He has people seeded ahead of him in Saturday's final,