BEIJING Interesting to think there were many "How is she doing this?" questions about Dara Torres getting an Olympic medal ... eight years ago. That was a bronze in the 50-meter freestyle. She did that one better in the same event on the final day of an amazing display of swimming for the last week at the Water Cube.
Torres, the 41-year-old mom, got a silver medal in the race that's about all-out speed and power. Then, about 45 minutes later, Torres combined with teammates Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni and Christine Magnuson to take a silver medal in the 4x100 medley relay final.
Just as the hundredth-of-a-second difference went in favor of fellow American Michael Phelps the day before in the 100 butterfly, Torres missed gold in the 50 freestyle by that barely measurable difference.
The winner was Germany's Britta Steffen, 24, who was born the year before Torres took part in her first Olympics. Steffen's time was an Olympic-record 24.06 seconds. Torres was less than a heartbeat behind at 24.07.
Australian 16-year-old Cate Campbell, who was born the same year Torres made her third Olympic appearance (1992), was the bronze winner in 24.17. The world record-holder, Australia's Libby Trickett, was fourth in 24.25.
In the relay, the Americans finished with a time of 3:53.30, behind Australia's world-record 3:52.69. Torres was part of the 2000 Olympic medley relay team that beat Australia in the Sydney Games. In the 2004 Games, in which she did not compete, the Americans were second to Australia in that race.
Torres had said just before these Olympics began, "I want to go out there for those 40-something-year-olds and show age is just a number and have fun."
She was 33 when she took a bronze in the 50 at the 2000 Sydney Games, and everyone surely thought that was her swan song. She wasn't even the only "old" swimmer in those Olympics who got a lot of attention positive and negative for her accomplishments at a later age.
Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands was 27 then and her 50 victory aroused suspicions that she was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Torres, of course, can't swim even 1 meter now without facing the inevitable questions. She continues to answer that she'll take any and all tests, as much as possible, to try to prove she has been swimming clean.
Ultimately, 40-and-over fans definitely want to give her the benefit of the doubt. The span of her career in the pool is unprecedented. At Torres' first Olympics, in 1984, the women didn't even have a 50-meter race. It was added for the 1988 Seoul Games.
Torres won a gold in the 400 freestyle relay in that initial Olympic appearance in Los Angeles. This is her fifth Olympics, and she finishes with four golds, four silvers and four bronzes.