This New York Times Magazine profile on swimmer Dara Torres is from last month, but it's worth your time if you want a clearer picture of how the 41-year-old stays fast and continues to beat opponents who weren't even alive the first time she competed in the Olympics in 1984.
No matter how many times her drug tests come back clean, Torres will hear whispers that she's cheating due to her advanced age and rippling physique. But there's a doctor at the Mayo Clinic who insists that the accomplishments of Torres, while unusual, are not particularly surprising:
“Dara is extremely impressive, but she’s not as unique as people think,” says Michael Joyner, a competitive athlete and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic who writes scholarly papers about aging and sports. “Ted Williams hit .388 when he was 39. Jack Foster did very well in the Olympic marathon when he was 40. Karl Malone earned a triple-double in an N.B.A. game at 40. Jeannie Longo won a French time-trial championship in cycling at age 47.” Torres’s events — short swims — are also well suited to competitors of advanced age. Compared to, say, running, swimming is more technique-intensive and produces fewer injuries. Sprints are also kinder to older athletes, in that strength falls off more gradually than aerobic power... “For those of us who pay attention to this stuff,” Joyner said, “Dara’s performance is unusual but not totally unexpected.”
So there, doubting Thomases. Prominent anesthesiologists of the world agree, Torres might not be on the juice. And that's a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one.