August 13, 2008

Dara’s Kick in Pants for Over-40 Set


Forget Pilates.

Sunday in Beijing the world got a gander at the "core muscles" of 41-year-old asthmatic, new mother and swimming sensation Dara Torres. She's the oldster feel-good tale coming out of that sinister nation breathing down our collective neck.

Dara Torres?

We're talking abs of steel.

Buns of krypton.

Triceps of granite.

We're talking: Get me some of that.

And get me to a pool.

OK, OK, so her neck and shoulders are reminiscent of Ahhhhrnold's in the glory days. So showering up poolside with boy swimming sensation Michael Phelps (you can see it on YouTube), it's hard to tell whose calves bulge more formidably, hers or his.

He calls her "my mom."

So she looks a bit like a guy.

Maybe she is a guy.

In this age of doped-up Olympians, men look like women. Women look like men. Sometimes, I'm told, women turn into men, or vice versa. A hermaphrodite kind of thing.

So what.

Let's not get sidetracked here.

Here's the point. Torres won her first medal 24 years ago in Los Angeles. On Sunday at the Olympics she anchored the U.S. freestyle relay team that won a silver medal (behind the Netherlands). She's got a 2-year-old kid and the people she's swimming against are closer in age to that kid than to her. Yet she looked about 25 rising up out of the water, victorious.

The point is: For all of us whose middle-age spread reaches clear over to the center console of our gas-slurping SUVs; for all of us whose spouses haven't looked our way since 1993 - Dara Torres is an inspiration.

She's here to tell us: It's not over yet.

Or, as the USA team coach Mark Schubert put it, "just because there's a lot of fat and out of shape 41-year-olds, that doesn't mean that's how it has to be."

"Sometimes," says Torres, "I feel 40 and I feel like there's a piano on my back and I can't get my arms out of the water."

But sometimes, she says, "I feel like a teenager.


See Dara Torres modeling her Speedo buoyancy swimsuit.

Hubba, hubba, hubba.

Here's another thing about these Olympics. We really need heroes this time. We need winners. NBC's ratings are through the roof. Why? Because self-esteem-wise, let's face it, we need to smack the Chinese who, we learned yesterday, are about to overtake America as the world's largest producer of manufactured goods. They're doing it four years earlier than expected. Why? Our weakening economy.

So here we are. The once almighty dollar's plummeting in value. The schools are warning us to get ready. Teach the kids Chinese if they want to get a job. Almost everything in the house reads "Made in China" on the bottom. Meanwhile China's polluting at such a rate we'll be underwater by 2080.

This is not stuff I like to contemplate. Had Kobe and LeBron lost to the Chinese basketball team this weekend, oh my God, immediate national depression. But did you notice? Half the Chinese team can't dribble with their left hands! Never was I so thrilled by the in- your-face, through-your-legs, mow-you-down-at-the-basket-like- mosquitoes bad boy athleticism of the NBA.

As of late yesterday afternoon, the Chinese were two medals ahead of the United States. But we're closing in fast.

Originally published by By MARGERY EAGAN.

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