Dara Torres Goes a Long Way for a Short Race

After four years, it's on again. The Summer Olympic Games are back.

The spectacular Opening Ceremony in Beijing is over (see video below), and the competition begins tomorrow. The next three weeks will see over 300 events contested. So now it's time to focus on athletic excellence.

As we alluded to a couple of days ago (see Olympic Tech in China), there will be instances where technology will come to the aid of the athletes in small ways that could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

For example, take the case of Dara Torres, who at 41 is trying to become the eldest gold medalist in the history of the Games' swimming competition. Torres first won a gold for the United States at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as a member of the women's 400-meter freestyle relay team when she was just 17. Since then, she has won three more gold and four other medals. In Beijing, she will be gunning for gold in her fifth appearance in the quadrennial Games in the short 50-meter freestyle events.

At the recent U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Torres set an American record in the individual 50-meter freestyle with a time of 24.25 seconds (see video below).

How has Torres managed to make it so far? In a word: training. She is reported to have one of the most intensive training regimens among any of the athletes to make it to this year's Olympics. In an article last year in The New York Times (see Torres Is Getting Older, but Swimming Faster), we learn about the extraordinary lengths she goes to in order to keep her body in tip-top shape.

One of the key elements in her rigorous exercise routine is a technique called resistance stretching, which Torres refers to as her "secret weapon." In resistance stretching, athletes seek to gain greater strength and flexibility by getting their muscles to contract and elongate simultaneously.

Strictly speaking, this isn't an instance of technology coming to the aid of an Olympic competitor, but it does speak to the role that new developments in biofeedback are playing in the increasingly technical world of athletics.

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