In the months leading up to Rio, Dara Torres read a lot about the problems plaguing Brazil and the dangers of traveling there. But now that she’s actually there, the experience hasn’t quite matched up with the reporting.
“It’s so funny because I’ve been getting emails (asking) ‘How are you doing? Are you safe?’ I’m right now across the street from the beach enjoying the beautiful view and the mountains,” the former U.S. swimmer told Moose & Maggie, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’ve already been over to Olympic Park. I don’t know what the stories are coming out, but everything I’ve seen so far has been fabulous. I don’t know if I’m just not in the right place, but I’ve been to a number of places here so far, and everything has been great, knock on wood. I just hope it stays that way.”
Torres, 49, swam in five Olympic Games, winning 12 medals, including four golds. One of her fondest Olympic memories was marching out during the Opening Ceremony.
“It’s the most exhilarating feeling to be out there,” she said. “Wearing Team USA gear and marching behind the flag that Michael Phelps will be holding and just enjoying every minute of it and taking it all in, it’s just an extraordinary moment that I’ve experienced in my life. These athletes are just going to be running on adrenaline when they walk into that stadium.”
The Opening Ceremony will take place Friday night in Rio at Maracana Stadium. Torres, who is covering the Games for Westwood One, is looking forward to all of the sports, especially swimming, gymnastics, and track and field.
“There’s going to be a lot of fun events,” she said. “For me specifically, swimming is obviously what I’m most looking forward to.”
Especially when it comes to Michael Phelps. The U.S. flag-bearer and 22-time medalist is participating in his third Olympics. He has 18 gold medals and numerous world records, but at 31, isn’t expected to dominate the Games as he did in Beijing in 2008. That said, he’s finally clean after years of alcohol abuse.
“Seeing what he had said a few days ago – that ’08 was about winning medals and 2012 was about doing the best he can – he just wants to take it all in,” Torres said. “I think the fact that the whole U.S. contingency nominated him to be the flag-bearer speaks a lot about everything he’s been through and where he is now. I think that he’s in a different stage of his life with his fiancee and his child coming to watch him swim. I think it’s a whole different Games for him and I think he can appreciate it much more. I know I did my first Games compared to my fifth Games.”
Torres competed at the Olympics in 1984 (Los Angeles), 1988 (Seoul), 1992 (Barcelona), 2000 (Sydney) and 2008 (Beijing).
The last one may have been the toughest – and not just physically.
“It’s very emotional,” she said. “I know that when I finished, I wasn’t sure if I was quite done yet. I ended up going for one more for a sixth, and missed that team my nine one-hundredths of a second. But when you know you’re done, you’re done. That’s sort of the way it is in swimming. When he said he was going to retire in 2012, I kind of knew he wasn’t done. This time, I really think this is the icing on the cake, his last hurrah.”