Dara Torres’ bid for a sixth Olympics failed Monday night with a fourth-place finish on the final night of Olympic trials.
Torres, 45, needed to come in at least second in the 50-meter freestyle to earn a spot on the American team that will compete in London this summer.
She went up against seven women who were all at least 19 years younger than her. She was slow off her starting block and could not make up the difference. Jessica Hardy won, finishing in 24.50 seconds, followed by Kara Lynn Joyce, who made her third Olympic team.
Torres finished in 24.82. She emerged from the water smiling and waved to her 6-year-old daughter, Tessa, in the stands. Torres had said she would not try to make the Olympics after this year.
That race, along with Andrew Gemmell’s win in the men’s 1500-meter freestyle that followed, were the final events of the Olympic trial season. The roster for Team USA is now set, and for the next several weeks, attention will focus on a select group of athletes on whom America is pinning its medal hopes.
Here are a few of them.
Wieber, 16, was beaten by Gabby Douglas at the Olympic trials last week but is still the world’s top female gymnast and the favorite to win gold in London. She has a nearly perfect résumé, including top finishes at the American Cup, Pacific Rim Championships and the U.S. championships this year and the 2011 all-around world title. She is the undisputed leader of the women’s Olympic team, which is also expected to win gold. In fact, the high expectations could be the only thing to trip Wieber up; the next few weeks will test her ability to stay focused.
The expectations aren’t quite as high for Orozco, the all-around American men’s champion, who, like Wieber, was edged out by a teammate at the Olympic trials – in this case, Danell Leyva. Orozco, 19, heads to London as the the team’s best shot at gold, but the competition from other countries – mainly Japan’s Kohei Uchimura – is a lot more daunting.
Felix, one of the world’s top sprinters, is known primarily for her prowess in the 200-meter, where she is expected to have another showdown with Jamaican Veronica Campbell Brown. That pairing is considered one of the Games’ biggest rivalries. But lately Felix is better known for her dead-heat finish with Jeneba Tarmoh in the 100-meter at the Olympic trials. After agreeing to a Monday night runoff, Tarmoh backed out at the last minute, allowing Felix to compete in a second individual event in London.
Much – very much – has been made of Phelps’ rivalry with his younger teammate Ryan Lochte. But four years after winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing, Phelps remains the king of swimming. He and Lochte went head to head in four events at the trials, and Phelps took three of them. Phelps will compete in a total of seven events at the 2012 Games, giving him a very good chance at setting the Olympics all-time medal count mark. He needs three medals of any kind to beat Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 14 medals.
Franklin, 17, is widely considered one of the world’s top young swimmers. She aims to prove it in London, where she will compete in seven events, the most ever by an American female swimmer. At the trials she won the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke and came in second in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle. She will also race in three Olympic relays.
Some rivals consider her overrated, but Jones will no doubt be one of the most closely watched athletes in London. The Olympics drip with stories of redemption, and Jones stands out because of her tragic performance in the 100-meter hurdles in Beijing. Cruising toward what appeared to be a sure gold medal, she stumbled over the second-to-last hurdle, finished seventh and crumpled to the track in tears. She has since endured several injuries and an excruciating procedure to repair a “tethered spine" and has become a media darling. She barely qualified for the 2012 Games, with a third-place finish in the Olympic trials.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings
The two-headed monster of beach volleyball. May-Treanor and partner Walsh Jennings are gunning for their third straight Olympic gold medals. The pair hasn’t lost a match in Olympic play, going 14-0 in Athens and Beijing. After the 2008 Games, Walsh Jennings took time out to become a mother, and May-Treanor recuperated from an Achilles tendon injury, so they didn’t start playing together again until last year.