INDIANAPOLIS — Dara Torres got out of the practice pool after a warm-down swim at the Indy Grand Prix Friday and four young competitors walked over, all giggling, and shyly requested that she pose for a few photos.
Minutes later, two other swimmers made a similar request; once Torres finished with them, one more walked up with a grin and camera. Though men’s megastars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are here, no other swimmer got accosted Friday morning quite as thoroughly as Torres, who at 44 — soon to be 45 — is trying to make her sixth Olympic team.
In the 50-meter freestyle heats minutes earlier, Torres looked like more than just a fabled swimmer from the past. She posted the second-fastest qualifying time — 25.36 seconds — despite misjudging the start and getting out more slowly than any of the final 16 competitors.
“It felt easy,” Torres said while the two professional stretchers she employs massaged her body with their bare feet shortly after the swim. ”For me, it’s about what happens when I come back” in tonight’s final. ”It’s really about trying to nail down the recovery. The other issue is I ’ll be swimming about the time I normally go to bed.”
Only Christine Magnuson (25.16) posted a faster qualifying time. Amanda Weir (25.64) and Jessica Hardy (25.65) also secured places in the final.
In other news, Towson’s Katie Hoff put up the fastest time in the 200 freestyle heats (1:59.00) hours after having finished second in the 400 freestyle final Thursday night. Teen star Missy Franklin placed second in 2:11.28. Great Falls’ Kate Ziegler qualified for the C Final with her time of 2:04.77, the 23rd best of the morning.
Michael Phelps put up the second-best qualifying time in an event he hates and claims to be swimming only for “training.” He finished in 4 minutes, 21.31 seconds in the heats of the 400 individual medley, behind only Tyler Clary (4:19.02). Ryan Lochte, the reigning world champion in the event, skipped it at this meet because it conflicted with two other specialties in which he swam Friday morning; he qualified for the finals of the 200 free (1:50.17) and the 200 back (2:00.33).
Anthony Ervin, an Olympic gold medal winner who retired in 2003 and returned to training last year, put up the second-best qualifying time in the 50 free (22.56).