Olympics

Torres finds recovery from knee surgery slow going

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LOS ANGELES (AP)

Dara Torres is all about being fast - in the water, during workouts, when she talks and even when she's just hanging out.

The sprinter who turns 45 next month is finding it slower going these days as she attempts yet another comeback in pursuit of making her sixth Olympic swim team this summer.

Torres took 16 months off for major surgery on her left knee after winning three silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. That would seem to be a blip compared to the seven years she was retired between the 1992 and 2000 Olympics. But the added years and additional wear-and-tear on her body have taken a toll.

''I am middle-aged so that makes it more difficult,'' she said in a rare concession to the passage of time. ''When I had this knee surgery, having to do all the rehab the year I had it put me behind training this time. You have to make sure it doesn't mess with your head because this is taking much longer to come back from than in the past.''

Torres is doing some of the same things she did to prepare for Beijing. But she's made changes, too, working with a naturopathic doctor who specializes in science-based natural medicine. She eats more throughout the day and consumes natural supplements such as black licorice root.

''I can't do all out in the morning. I can't recover,'' she said this week by phone from her home in Florida. ''Everything is about pacing but going fast enough to get into the next round (of a meet). I get three-quarters through the race and my body just shuts down.''

Torres is focusing on making the U.S. team in the 50-meter freestyle, a chaotic one-lap event. She'll have to finish first or second at the trials in late June to qualify for London, and she thinks it will take a time of 24 seconds to do so.

In November, she swam the 50 in 25.30 seconds, good for third at the Minneapolis Grand Prix. In December, she lowered her time to 25.24 at Winter Nationals and finished second.

''It's encouraging that there is improvement,'' she said. ''If I were to dive in the water and fall behind that would be a different story. If I wasn't improving I would pretty much be hanging my suits up. You just have to believe that you can do it. If you don't and you cave in to the ups and downs that makes it that much more difficult.''

Torres plans to test herself next at the Indianapolis Grand Prix from March 29-31. Her only other meet before trials will be in mid-May at the Texas Senior Circuit at Texas A&M.

She definitely has her bad days. A small piece of cartilage in her knee broke off and causes her pain.

''Nothing we can do about that,'' she said.

As a result, Torres doesn't spend much time working on her starts. Instead, she mimics the motion of diving off the blocks on dry land. She can't do weights involving her lower body either, so she uses a machine to stimulate her leg muscles.

Like many women in their 40s, her hormones fluctuate as her body approaches perimenopause, the time before a woman's periods eventually stop.

''When I'm at a certain point in my cycle, I don't produce hormones at all,'' she said. ''There are certain times I can go hard and other times not.''

Next month is significant for Torres. She turns 45 on April 15 and her daughter Tessa turns 6 three days later. The first anniversary of her coach's death is April 4. Michael Lohberg died at 61 from a rare blood disorder that was diagnosed just before Torres swam in Beijing.

''His name always comes up. Even last week we were talking about Michael memories,'' she said. ''It's getting easier in the sense that you think more about the positives. I was in the hospital visiting him and going through the whole thing. It's very fresh in your mind how the end was. Now it's starting to focus on the good things.''

Bruno Darzi, who helped Lohberg prepare Torres for Beijing, is carrying out the plan Lohberg developed for his oldest swimmer.

There are times when self-doubt weighs on Torres, and she asks Darzi if he thinks she won't get any faster.

''I can go out with everyone, I just have a problem finishing my races,'' she said.

Torres, along with Olympic champion speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, was to appear at the Endurance LIVE Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles. She and Ohno, as well as NBA star Carmelo Anthony and Olympic swimmers Nathan Adrian, Ricky Berens, Peter Vanderkaay, Chloe Sutton and Amanda Weir, are among the athletes appearing in a new ''got chocolate milk?'' campaign that launched this week.

Torres and Ohno previously appeared in white milk moustache ads, but the new print, television and online ads are mustache-free and focus on chocolate milk as a post-workout beverage that helps athletes refuel.

''When someone told me you can refuel so much better if you drink chocolate milk, I'm like this is a great excuse to have chocolate milk,'' Torres said. ''It's to make my training as effective and efficient as possible.''

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Online:

http://www.gotchocolatemilk.com

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