This is Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.
She’s 41 years old, has a two-year-old daughter, and won her first Olympic medal, a relay gold, in 1984. Torres is training to make the 2008 US Olympic team, but it’s not some casual attempt to relive the good old days: Torres set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle just a few months ago. As the photo above attests, part of Torres’ continuing success is due to her training regimen.
Torres calls resistance stretching her “secret weapon.” Bob Cooley, who invented the discipline, describes it in less-modest terms. According to Cooley, over a two-week period in 1999, his flexibility system turned Torres “from being an alternate on the relay team to the fastest swimmer in America.” The secret to Torres’s speed, Cooley says, is that his technique not only makes her muscles more flexible but also increases their ability to shorten more completely, and when muscles shorten more completely, they produce greater power and speed. “What do race-car drivers do when they want to go faster?” Cooley asks. “They don’t spend more hours driving around the track. They increase the biomechanics of the car. And that’s what resistance flexibility is doing for Dara - increasing her biomechanics.”
The Olympic Trials are going on right now in Omaha, NE. The women’s 50-meter freestyle preliminaries take place on July 5 with the final on July 6, broadcast live on NBC.