With 24 years separating her first and last appearances, Dara Torres has seen quite a bit of change at the Olympics since she debuted at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
“I remember they just had computers where you could only email to people within the Olympic Village because they didn’t really have Internet back then,” Torres said. “The technology in swimsuits have changed, you used to wear these real little, simple, skimpy suits and now the more suit you have on, the better.
“It’s kind of fun to look back at pictures of what it was like back in ’84 and then fast-forward to now.”
The Olympics may look different, but Torres is still a familiar face at the Games every four years.
The California native made her Olympic debut in her hometown, taking home her first gold in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay that year. After three trips to the Games, Torres left swimming in 1992 with four Olympic medals to her name, two of those gold. But comebacks in 2000 and 2008 netted another eight medals, including two golds in the Sydney Games. Torres’ 12 medals are tied with Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin for most all-time among American women.
Torres was a model of consistency in her career, but as a spectator entering the Rio Games this summer, she’s most excited to see the inevitable Cinderella stories.
“You know who the veterans are, you know they’re going to do well,” Torres said. “But it’s also exciting to see some story that all the sudden comes out of nowhere. Some kid you’ve never heard of that all the sudden does amazingly well.
“There’s something about that, it just kind of gets you teary-eyed that there’s someone out there you’ve never heard of that comes from nowhere and does spectacular.”
Torres will get a first-hand look at some of those potential breakout stars in her role with Team Kellogg’s this spring and summer. The veteran is working with Olympic hopefuls looking to realize a lifelong dream and make Team USA for the first time.
“We’re teaching them what to expect before going into their first Olympic Games,” Torres said.
The campaign is stressing the importance of setting goals, both in athletics and life.
“I’m working with Kellogg’s to celebrate how you set your goals, what motivates you to set your goals, what drives you,” Torres said. “These kids obviously are goal-setters, to be at the level you’re at you have to set goals, but you don’t have to be a goal-setter and just be an athlete, I’m retired and I still set goals.”
Torres believes her experience swimming in a variety of situations at different Games made here perfect fit for this opportunity.
“I think the biggest thing is to stay focused but also enjoy the moment,” Torres said. “I remember my first Olympic Games, I was this crazy kid with energy just sort of bouncing off the walls, but now that I’ve been to a number of Olympic Games and I was able to mature a little bit, I could go in there, stay focused, but also enjoy the moment and have fun.”