OMAHA -- There was someone who knew as far back as last summer that Dara Torres would make the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming team, at age 41, no less.
Not anyone in her household or her considerable entourage. But it was someone who had known her since she was swimming for a club team in Culver City, at age 13. It was USA Swimming's Mark Schubert, who began coaching her a few years later at Mission Viejo.
"The comeback kind of blew me away when she . . . was so successful last summer, breaking the American record. Once she did that, I knew she was going to make the team," Schubert said
That was at Indianapolis in August, when Torres lowered the mark in the 50 freestyle. The rest of the world caught up to Schubert's intuition at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials here when Torres won the 100 freestyle Friday.
She then took it a stroke or two beyond that Sunday, setting herself up as a viable individual medal contender in Beijing by winning the 50 freestyle on the last day of the trials, going 24.25 seconds, lowering her own U.S. record. Jessica Hardy of Long Beach was second in 24.82.
"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," Torres said. "I know I've made it, but I haven't read any articles or seen anything on TV. I've been watching 'Seinfeld' and 'Sex and the City.' "
Said Hardy: "I think more emotions got a hold of me again but that's not about my time, it's about racing. . . . I think you learn from the other racers; I am a bit more inexperienced than most of the 50 freestylers out there in that event."
Torres was asked what it would take to contend in China in the 50 with the likes of Libby (Lenton) Trickett, the world-record holder.
"It's still fun to be the one who's chasing and not the one being chased at," Torres said. "I kind of like my position."
Torres said she has not decided whether to swim a full program in China, of two individual events and two relays. She will decide shortly whether to skip the 100 freestyle.
Her last comeback, in 2000, was treated with suspicion in many quarters, and although Torres has never had a positive drug test, there has been a steady stream of columns from Omaha questioning her results, wondering whether it all might be too good to be true.
Torres said she regards the accusations as a compliment and cited her numerous urine and blood tests. She also disclosed Sunday she has been taking an amino acid formula, a German product that has been WADA-approved, according to her coach.
Schubert spoke about the impact on Torres.
"I really do cringe because I know it hurts her," he said in an interview with The Times on Saturday. "She anticipated the questions just because of her age and because of the age we're in and all the media coverage with baseball this past year. I think it was predictable. But I think it's also unfair. I think it's unfair to accuse anybody without testing positive.
"She understands it comes with the territory of being great. She's been a very spectacular talent since she was 14 years old. And she's never been out of shape a day in her life."
The last race of the swimming trials hardly went to form. Peter Vanderkaay of Club Wolverine (Mich.) won the 1,500-meter freestyle in 14 minutes 45.54 seconds. Taking second was Larsen Jensen of USC's Trojan Swim Club in 14:50.80.
Erik Vendt placed fourth in 15:07.78, well off his personal best. He came out of retirement for one last push and won't be swimming in any individual events in Beijing but will be on a relay.
Said Jensen: "I figured going out a little quicker really wouldn't be that difficult and it really didn't feel that difficult. I don't know why I really faded at the end. That's the race I can second-guess, I suppose."
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Highlights of the U.S. swim trials
Former world-record holder Brendan Hansen finishing fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke behind training partners Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau, as well as Scott Usher. He was almost three seconds off his American record time and his coaches plan on trying to find out if there was a medically related reason. He will compete in the 100 breaststroke against rival Kosuke Kitajima in China.
Garrett Weber-Gale, 22, sweeping the star-studded field in both sprint events, the 100 freestyle on Thursday and then the 50 free Saturday. He knocked back two-time defending Olympic champion Gary Hall Jr. and rising star Cullen Jones, who finished fourth and third, respectively, in the 50. Joining Weber-Gale in the 50 in Beijing will be world champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner. Apparently, it's all about the hyphen in the 50.