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Torres breaks own American record in 50-meter freestyle

8/4/2007

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dara Torres' 15th national title felt no
different from her first a quarter-century earlier.


The oldest national champion in U.S. swimming history, Torres
set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle Saturday night in
her bid toward a possible fifth Olympics appearance.


"It's an awesome feeling," she said. "I can't put words on it
to describe how I felt when I touched that wall and saw my time."


Competing in the pool in which she qualified for her first
Olympics as a teenager in 1984, two years after her first national
championship, the 40-year-old Torres came in at 24.53 seconds, a
personal best that beat her American record of 24.63 set in the
2000 Sydney Olympics.


The world record, also set at Sydney, is 24.13 seconds by Inge
de Bruijn of the Netherlands.


Torres also won the 100 freestyle on Wednesday, her first title
at the U.S. Nationals since she came out of retirement last summer
following the birth of her first child.


"It feels exactly the same," Torres said of the transition
from a swimming wunderkind to the sport's most senior citizen. "I
was 14, I was bouncing off the walls. Now I'm a little more mature
but I still have that same excited feeling when I touch the wall."


The former world record-holder at 50 meters, Torres beat Lara
Jackson, who had a 25.27 in the finals.


Torres said she felt no pressure getting back into competitive
swimming after her long layoff.


"I just got in shape swimming with my daughter and I started
swimming a couple of meets and I swam real fast," she said. "A
lot of master swimmers were encouraging me to swim, so I just
decided to get back into it."


And she's far from finished.


Her goal is to swim at the Beijing Games next year, when at 41
she could become the oldest Olympic swimming champion.


"I'm just going to take a couple weeks off and hopefully get
back in training and start training for the Olympic trials," she
said.


Among other events on the final night of the five-day meet at
the IU Natatorium, Katie Hoff, the world record-holder in the 400
individual medley, won the 200 IM for her third national title of
the week; and Emily Brunemann, a Michigan sophomore who was fourth
in the 800 freestyle, beat her previous best time by 8 seconds and
won the women's 1,500 for her first national title.


Michael Phelps, who won two of his first four titles Friday
night, passed up Saturday's 200 individual medley but was part of
the winning Club Wolverine team in the meet's final event, the 400
medley relay. Phelps, Scott Spann, Davis Tarwater and Peter
Vanderkaay won in 3:38.32, well off the world-record 3:30.68 set by
the U.S. at the Athens Games.


"Probably not in the best training state right now, not in best
physical shape we really want to be in," Phelps said. "But all
things considered, it was a pretty solid week. There was some
pretty solid racing, some pretty solid times."


Phelps also won the 100 and 200 backstrokes, the 100 butterfly
and the 200 freestyle. He finished third in the 400 free, which
Vanderkaay won.


"If this isn't getting me hungry to get back in and do what I
need to do, then I don't know what will," Phelps said.


Ryan Lochte, the world record-holder in the 200 backstroke, won
the 200 IM. Lochte also won the 400 IM on Wednesday.


"The times I put up, I just raced tough. I'm happy with the
overall meet," said Lochte, who won the 200 IM in 1:56.95.


Lochte's personal best is 1:56.11 set last year. Only Phelps,
who holds the world and American record of 1:54.98, has ever gone
faster than Lochte.


"I just wanted to go under 2 minutes. I would be fine with
that," he said. "The amount of training I've done, and the work
I've put in, right now I'm really happy about it."


Among other events, Club Wolverine teammates Erik Vendt and
Peter Vanderkaay finished 1-2 in the 800 freestyle, and world
champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner of Stanford won the 50 freestyle by
two-hundreths of a second over Cullen Jones.