The 45-year-old mother missed making a record sixth USA swim team by nine-hundredths of a second, finishing fourth in the 50m freestyle on the last night of the US trials on Monday.
“This is really over,” she said, smiling. “That’s it, I’m going to enjoy some time with my daughter, have a nice summer and cheer on the US team from afar.”
Torres carried six-year-old Tessa, her blond head buried in her mother’s shoulder, as she came off the pool deck and made her way past reporters for the last time.
“She’s bummed she’s not going to London now,” Torres said. “I told her I’d still take her though.”
Torres will have extra time now to help her daughter get ready for first grade in the fall. Always a fitness fanatic, she’ll still work out, just not at the highest level required of an elite athlete. And Torres admits it’ll be nice to stop worrying about whether she can recover enough to swim three races in quick succession.
“Mentally it’s been so tough the past couple years with having more bad workouts than good workouts and going to meets and not being able to go faster at night than I did in the morning,” she said.
“I’m used to winning, but that wasn’t the goal here. The goal was to try to make it. I didn’t quite do it, but I’m really happy with how I did.”
After winning three silver medals at the Beijing Olympics, Torres underwent radical knee surgery and put all her hopes into a chaotic dash from one end of the pool to the other. But 25-year-old Jessica Hardy won in 24.50 seconds, while 26-year-old Kara Lynn Joyce took the other Olympic spot in 24.73.
“I don’t think there’s anything I could have changed,” Torres said. “You got to look at it realistically. As much as I want to win and I wanted to make the team, that’s pretty good for a 45-year-old.”
Hardy said it was an honour to compete against Torres, who retired twice but came back to win five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, then three more silvers in Beijing.
“Swimming with her the past couple years has been really an awesome treat for sure,” she said.
Torres ends a career that began at her hometown Los Angeles Games in 1984. She won 12 Olympic medals, tied with Jenny Thompson as the most decorated US female swimmer. Torres became the first American to swim in five Olympics and the oldest female swimmer ever at the Games.