Dara Torres

Dara Torres comes up just shy

OMAHA -- Two years ago, Dara Torres' coach, Michael Lohberg, who was dying of a rare blood disorder, said to her, "Let's go for this." They both understood. She should try to make the U.S. Olympic team for the London Games.

By 2012, Dara would be 45.

Nutty. She had made the team in 2008, even won three medals, all silver, running her overall medal count to 12, tying an American record. But at 45? With a balky left knee?

On Monday night in Omaha, Dara Torres came this close. She is possessed of not just great talent but will and soul. At 45, she finished fourth in the 50 freestyle, missing out on a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team by nine-hundredths of a second.

Jessica Hardy, 25 years old, won the race in 24.50 seconds. Kara Lynn Joyce, 26, finished second, in 24.73; she had finished fourth in the 50 at the 2008 Trials, and immediately after the race cried what she said were tears of "shock and joy, yes, and a lot of happiness."

Christine Magnuson, 26, took third, in 24.78.

Torres came in fourth, in 24.82.

"It's OK," she said moments afterward, holding her six-year-old daughter, Tessa. "I'm used to winning,. That wasn't the goal here. The goal was to try to make it.

"I didn't quite do it."

Hardy, who also won the 100 free here, said of Torres, "I love racing Dara. I wish the best for her. I wish she could have made it here. Swimming with her the past couple years has really been an awesome treat, for sure."

That has been a widespread sentiment around these Trials.

Madison Kennedy, 24 years old, who finished fifth in the 50 final in 25.1, had said beforehand, "I remember she came and did a clinic in, like -- in Connecticut -- Dara came to a clinic when I was way younger, 13, 11, maybe, and I was like, oh, my God, I got to hold her medal! It was so cool.

"She was on a tour. I just thought it was so amazing. It's so weird that I'm swimming against her now. Like, you know, when people have idols and then they come full circle and they meet them? That's what's happening."

This time around, age was both Dara's ally and ferocious enemy.

She trained smarter. At the same time, she said, "It's much tougher this time around," meaning than four years ago. "People were saying I was middle-aged when I was 41. But I'm really middle-aged now."

The hard part, she said, was recovering after races. There was also so much recovery she could do -- only so much she could put her body through.

In the first round here, she qualified fifth, in 25-flat.

In the semifinals, she came back with a 24.8, third-fastest.

In the final, she just came up less than a tenth of a second short. As Magnuson said, "That's the 50 for you."

The curious thing is Torres swam faster here than she did in winning the 50 at the Trials 12 years ago.

"I look back and in 2000," she said, "I went 24.9 to qualify," which is dead-on right. "So being 45, 12 years later, you've got to look at it realistically. As much as I wanted to win and wanted to make the team, I mean, that's pretty good for a 45-year-old."

She also said that this is, indeed, it. She said she is done trying to make the U.S. Olympic team. No Rio 2016.

She said she is going to "enjoy some time with my daughter, have a nice summer, cheer on the U.S. team from afar."

One more thing. Michael Lohberg died in April, 2011. She said, "I really wanted to finish the story that I started with him," adding a moment later, "I know he would be proud."

He would.

Natalie Coughlin still has ... hope

OMAHA -- Hope, they say in sports, is merely disappointment delayed. The great Natalie Coughlin now finds herself in the unusual position of hoping she makes the 2012 U.S. team that goes to London.

She is by no means a certainty, which seems almost incredulous, given that she has raced in 11 Olympic finals over the past two Games and won 11 Olympic medals. She needs one more medal to join Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated American female Olympic athletes in history.

But there it is.

Time has a way of doing this to everyone, even the great Natalie Coughlin. She is now 29, and finds herself trying to beat back teen-agers like Missy Franklin who saw Natalie Coughlin on their living-room television screens when they were little girls and dreamed of one day being just like her.

That day is this week, here, now, at the U.S. Trials. Except here is the difference: All these teens are not just younger. They are bigger and stronger than Natalie Coughlin.

In the women's 100-meter backstroke Wednesday night, Franklin, who is 17, touched first in 58.85, an American record. Rachel Bootsma, who is 18, came in second, in 59.49.

Coughlin finished third, in 1:00.06.

Of Coughlin's 11 Olympic medals, two are individual golds. Those two are in the 100 back.

The cruel fact of the Trials, of course, is that third doesn't get you onto the Olympic team.

Here is some basic math from the 100 back Tuesday night. Of the five others in the race besides Franklin, Bootsma and Coughlin, one was 21, another 22. The others: 18, 17, 16.

"… There is such a young heat and amazing heat, there are so many incredible backstrokers that will be in that final …," Franklin had said beforehand, adding, "So I'm excited to get out there and race and see what we can do."

Here is another set of facts, and it is revealing:

Franklin swam the 100 backstroke final, set that American record, qualified for her first U.S.  Olympic team, did all that -- roughly 20 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat of the 200 free.

Franklin is the next big thing in American swimming for a series of very good reasons. She is immensely talented, competitive, cheerful, the complete package. But it all starts with her considerable physical attributes. She stands 6-1. She has broad shoulders. She was built to swim, and she swims exceedingly well.

Coughlin is 5-8. Swimming is not basketball, of course, and it's not that giving away five inches means that Missy is going to dunk on Natalie. But the longer a swimmer is, the more stable he or she can be in the water -- like the keel on a sailboat.

Take a look at the best male swimmers. They're all tall:

Michael Phelps (6-4), who defeated Ryan Lochte (6-2), in the 200 freestyle final Tuesday night by five-hundredths of a second, a reversal of positions from last year's world championships in Shanghai.

Matt Grevers (6-8), who on Tuesday won the 100 back. He was the silver medalist in that event in Beijing.

And many, many more.

Enter Missy Franklin.

Everyone understands what's going on. But no one wants to say so directly. Especially Franklin, who genuinely -- and appropriately -- reveres Coughlin.

"I think it's impossible to take Natalie's spot," Franklin had said after the backstroke semifinals. "I mean, she's the best women's swimmer the sport has ever seen, and probably ever will, so she has done her job, and no one can ever really fill her spot."

Asked after the semis how she felt about her own self, Franklin said, "I love how I feel right now -- strong and powerful. It's so awesome to feel this way and to be able to come here and do what I came to do."

This is just how it is.

Coughlin had finished seventh Tuesday night in the 100 butterfly, a distant 2.16 seconds behind Dana Vollmer, who flirted with the world record before touching in 56.50. Claire Donahue took the second Olympic spot in 57.57.

Coughlin had been entered in the 200 individual medley but scratched out of it to focus on the 100 back.

Now she has only the 100 free left; prelims for that get underway Friday.

Asked if it entered her mind that she would likely have to displace Natalie Coughlin to make the U.S. Olympic team, Bootsma said, of course.

"She's Natalie Coughlin, right? The most amazing female swimmer, ever. It was unbelievable to be in the same heat with her. Making the team is a huge deal to me. I wish she could be there to kind of show everyone the ropes and stuff. But she'll make it in other events. And I'm looking forward to London."

Coughlin herself, gracious as ever after coming in third in Wednesday night's final, called Franklin and Bootsma "awesome, awesome girls."

She also said of her two Olympic golds, "I'm very proud of that." Even so, she said, "It's time for Missy and Bootsma."

Of these Trials, Coughlin said, "It's not exactly what I was hoping for, coming into this. I've done everything I could possibly do this year. My training has been, frankly, amazing. The races haven't been quite there. So I'm a little bummed but not nearly as much as everyone is expecting me to be. You know, you're walking around the pool deck and people are acting like you're dying or something."

The Trials are not over, certainly.

"I am praying and hoping for her because I would love to be on another team with her," Franklin said.

You never know about hope. Sometimes, in the end, champions have a funny way of making hope come alive.

"She is in a place she probably didn't anticipate. That's not a happy place," Frank Busch, the U.S. national team director said, quickly adding, "I certainly would not count Natalie out. Great champions can pull off great performances at any time: 'World -- watch this.' "

Team USA's "unbelievably encouraging" swim worlds

SHANGHAI -- As the race unfolded, it wasn't a question of whether Ryan Lochte would win the 400-meter individual medley. It was by how much. In 2011, he's just that much better than everyone else. After three of the four segments in the race, he was a stunning three seconds ahead of the other American in the race, Tyler Clary, who was in second place.

Lochte went on to win, in 4:07.13, with Clary  four seconds back, capping the final night of the 2011 swimming world championships, a night that not only saw a second world record -- China's Sun Yang, in the men's 1500 meters -- but also saw the American team again assert its dominance.

Remember former USA Track & Field chief executive Doug Logan, and his ambitious goal of seeing the American track team win 30 medals in London next year?

Here, the U.S. swim team won 29. That's seven better than it won at the 2009 world championships in Rome.

In Beijing, at the 2008 Games, the U.S. swim team won 31 medals, 12 gold. The track team may still get the love from the traditionalists but the plain, hard fact is that it's the swim team that carries the U.S. medals count. It did in Beijing and it's all but sure to do so in London, too.

In a twist, the American dominance in Shanghai can be attributed in large measure to the American women, who came on strong across the board, and in particular to the emergence of 16-year-old Missy Franklin.

In Rome, the American women took home only eight medals -- two gold, three silver, three bronze.

Here: 13 total -- eight gold, two silver, three bronze.

With Franklin yelling, "Let's go, USA!" in the stands, Jessica Hardy won gold Sunday night in the 50 breaststroke, a poignant victory after her suspension for inadvertently ingesting a contaminated supplement, with Rebecca Soni -- who earlier had won the 100 and 200 breaststroke races -- taking third. Then Elisabeth Beisel won the women's 400 IM.

"It was great by [Saturday] night and just got greater tonight," the U.S. women's head coach, Jack Bauerle, said when it was all over.

The sudden depth of the U.S. women's program was most evident in the medley relay Saturday, when Franklin anchored a victory in American-record time. That prompted Natalie Coughlin to post afterward to her Twitter feed, "Yay. Gold medal, 4x100 MR. 10 yrs on that relay & 1st GOLD."

The depth on display in Shanghai, moreover, doesn't even factor in a whole host of college swimmers or the likes of Dara Torres or Janet Evans.

Pointing toward London, it's "unbelievably encouraging," Bauerle said.

As for the men -- well, the performances that Lochte and Phelps threw down are surely encouraging.

Lochte won five gold medals and set a world record -- the first since the plastic suits went away at the start of 2010 -- in the 200 IM, edging out Phelps in the race by 16-hundredths of a second.

Asked to reflect on his performance, Lochte said, and he was being dead serious, "I'm not happy. I know I can go a lot faster."

This is the mental key to Lochte's success. "I don't really think I'm the top dog," he explained, adding that no matter what he might accomplish, immediately afterward, "I knock myself right down to the bottom of the totem pole." So, looking toward London, "I have a whole year to work hard, train hard, to get back up there to the top. As far as I'm concerned right now, I'm at the bottom."

Phelps on Sunday night put the American men in position to win the medley relay with his butterfly split; Nathan Adrian swam the winning anchor leg.

Over the course of his week here, Phelps won both the 100 and 200 flys; he also took part in two winning relays; so that's four golds. He took two silvers, both behind Lochte, in the 200 IM and the 200 free; and he was part of the bronze-winning 400 free relay.

In all, that's seven medals -- the most won by anyone here. Over his extraordinary career, Phelps has won 26 gold and 33 world championship medals; both are records.

The medley marked Phelps' last world championship swim. He has vowed that the London Games will see the end of his competitive swimming career. He said in a Twitter post that it was "wild" to think that Shanghai was his last worlds -- his first was in 2001, in Japan -- and "amazing" to finish with a gold medal.

At a news conference, Phelps again made the point that 2011 is a warm-up for 2012. Once more, he said it's time to buckle down:

"I said this 100 times this week and I'll say it 100 more. To swim fast you've got to be in good shape. Ryan is clearly working hard and is clearly in the best shape he has probably ever been [in]. That's why he's swimming how he is. You know, I just need to get back to what I did to get to where I am, and that's hard work and not giving up, and that really is the biggest key for me over the next 12 months."

The challenge for the American men is obviously not Lochte and Phelps.

It's this:

Clary won that silver in the 400 IM and a bronze in the 200 backstroke, both behind Lochte.

Tyler McGill took third in the 100 fly, behind Phelps.

Nobody else won anything.

To be fair, stuff happens. Adrian, for instance, who finished fourth in the 50 free, touched the wall one-hundredth of a second from third place. Nobody's blaming him for that -- that would be ridiculous.

Traditionally, though, the U.S. men are strong in the breaststroke and in a race such as the 100 back. "We know where we've got to get better," the U.S. men's coach, Eddie Reese, said Sunday night.

As for the inevitable -- before the "how many golds can Lochte win in London?" chatter gets overwhelming, remember that the eight Phelps won in Beijing broke down to five individual events and three relays.

One step further: The American men would seem a safe bet for 2012 in two of those relay, the 800 free and medley.

As for the 400 free, though, the one in which Jason Lezak saved the house in 2008 -- the Australians, led by James Magnussen, smoked the Americans in Shanghai. Magnussen went on to win the open 100 here as well. He is a force, and he's just 20 years old.

Magnussen swam the lead-off leg for the Aussies; Eamon Sullivan the anchor. After watching the destruction, Reese had said, "After we saw the first guy from Australia, we didn't know he could stay out there, that they'd stay out there. Their anchor man's got such a great history. He's the guy that scared me on the relay, more so than their lead-off man. But he now scares me more."

On Sunday night, Reese observed, "The world is getting better."

Before the Americans even get to Magnussen and the Aussies, they have to get by the French; after all, the U.S. finished third in that 400 relay, not second.

There's a year for the Americans themselves to get better. And maybe to find new talent. America's college ranks are filled with up-and-coming swimmers, too, Reese said; the U.S. nationals take place in just a few days.

It makes swim freaks geeked up already for the U.S. Trials next summer in Omaha. "I think," Reese said, "it's going to be the best meet any of us have ever seen."

Missy Franklin's breakout moment

SHANGHAI -- The entire American swim team gathered in the stands just behind the starting blocks Saturday night to cheer on the red, white and blue. Ricky Berens, winner of gold in the men's 800 free relay the night before, was among those sitting in the front row. With two laps to go in the women's 200 backstroke, he leapt to his feet. With one lap to go, everyone else joined in. Everyone started yelling, "Go, Missy!"

Go, she did.

Missy Franklin, the 16-year-old sensation, won the 200 back and in the process lowered the American record she had set the night before in qualifying, finishing in 2:05.10. Later in the evening, she anchored the U.S. women's medley relay team to its first victory at a world championships since 1998, in American-record time, 3:52.36.

On a night when Michael Phelps won his second gold of these championships in the 100 butterfly, timed in 50.71 seconds, even he was all too glad to applaud for Missy.

"She's unbelievable," Phelps said just moments after winning his own race. "She really has been able to come on the scene strong and I have said this all along: she's a stud."

Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, had observed earlier this week, "Missy is awesome. I think we'll remember [here] as when it all started. It reminds me of somebody I know."

The fact is, sports needs stars, and right now U.S. swimming arguably has four.

Phelps and, of course, Ryan Lochte, who has had a phenomenal 2011 worlds, with four golds -- so far -- and a world-record in the 200 individual medley. On the women's side, Natalie Coughlin and Dara Torres.

The U.S. women's team features some first-rate swimmers -- Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer, for instance, who swam on the medley Saturday, were individual gold medalists at these championships as well.

But, regrettably, most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any female U.S. swimmer but Dara and Natalie, and Dara isn't here, the Americans having picked their team last summer, when Dara wasn't in swim mode.

It may not be right and it may not be fair. But that's the way it is.

All of which only underscores the Phelps phenomenon. Before Phelps, were swim races shown on the big screen at NFL games? Here, a Phelps ad for a sportswear company is all over Shanghai bus stops.

Let that sink in for just a moment. An ad using an American swim star to push sporting gear is all over Chinese bus stops.

And Coughlin, of course, appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."

Swimming needs such stars.

That's why Missy's emergence here is so promising.

Because if she does at the London Olympics what she did here, America is going to swoon for Missy.

By next summer, you'll learn all about how Missy has size-13 feet. She's 6-feet-1. She still has braces on her teeth. Her coaches call her "Missile."

This fall, she'll be a junior in high school. She couldn't be sweeter to talk to. She has unbelievable positive energy.

"You have to go in there and trust yourself and know that if you set your mind to something, you can do it," she had said Friday. "I'm just going to out and represent the U.S. and have a blast."

At that point, she had won a silver in the 400 relay; a bronze in the 50 back; and a gold in the 800 relay, with a 200 split, a 1:55.05 leadoff leg, that would have won the 200 free by more than half a second.

In Friday's 200 back semifinals, she went an American-record 2:05.90.

"… She didn't even know it was an American record. I looked at her after the race," said Elisabeth Beisel, who had placed third in the heat, "and said, 'You know that was an American record? And she said, 'What? No way!' "

In winning Saturday's final, Missy lowered the American record to 2:05.10.

The medley combination -- Coughlin, Soni, Vollmer, Franklin -- ended up only 17-hundredths back of the world record. In a race that over the past several years has not been an American strength, this combination beat the next-closest team, China, by more than three seconds. That's a wow.

"I just knew if I went out there and did my best that my team would be proud of me," Missy said afterward.

"She is barely 16 and so strong and she has the maturity to handle the pressure of swimming," Coughlin said. "I know many of us have spoken … about how special it is. She gets so excited. She's genuinely happy and excited to race, like more so than any other swimmer on this team. All of us are trying to, you know, mimic that as much as possible. It's unbelievably refreshing to have her energy on the team."

Vollmer said, "Like she said, we're mimicking her energy the best that we can. Having someone on the team that comes in and it's just like, 'Ooh, yes, it's prelims!' It's really awesome to have that."

Coughlin: "LIke yesterday, before the 100 free, she said, 'Are you guys excited? Were like, 'Yeah, yeah.' "

At the traditional winners' news conference, a reporter asked Missy, "You're one of the faces of these championships now -- can you sum up .. how you feel?"

If you want to start swooning now, it's okay. Everyone here is.

"There really are no words to describe it right now," she said.

"i am so so happy. I have never been this happy in my entire life. It has been such an incredible meet. Everything was run perfectly. The pool was incredible. The crowd  was so energetic. I honestly couldn't ask for anything better. I am so thrilled right now."

Natalie Coughlin, sitting right next to Missy, said, "See what I mean?"

Remembering Michael Lohberg

Two summers ago, during a break in the action at the world swimming championships in Rome, Michael Lohberg and I found a quiet little trattoria on the east bank of the Tiber River, just across from the Castel Sant' Angelo. We had a lovely lunch. The antipasti was excellent. So was the spaghetti carbonara. And the tiramisu, too.

Both of us knew enough about what was really going on to savor the moment. He was desperately ill. Neither of us knew how much time he had left.

Michael had been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia. The disorder causes the bone marrow to shut down -- that is, the factory that makes blood cells within the body stops making them. He was alive solely because of regular transfusions of blood and platelets.

It is testament to Michael's resolve and zest for life that he hung on for a good long while. But now he is gone. He died last week, just 61.

His passing is beyond sad. It is heartbreaking.

Not Michael's courage in fighting the fight. That was amazing.

It's just so sad because Michael Lohberg was one of the most genuinely decent people you would ever want to meet.

Michael was, in recent years, swim star Dara Torres' coach. He came to the United States in the early 1990s, from Germany, and quickly became a fixture in the South Florida swim scene.

Two years ago, he was inducted into the Broward County Hall Sports Hall of Fame.

Michael was a great coach at the elite level -- he coached at six Olympic Games. His swimmers qualified for every Games from 1984 through 2008. They held national records in places as diverse as Germany, Kazakhstan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

He was a great coach at the local level, too.

He was, physically, a big man. At first he could come off as all gruff. But he was really all teddy-bear. Maybe that's why hundreds and hundreds of people turned out for the post-funeral reception at (where else?) the pool, the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

"He had such an ability to communicate, whether you were 15 or 44 years old," Dara was saying on the telephone.

So true.

I loved hanging out with Michael in person at meets, or following him with up on the phone or by email. He had a real way with words.

One story:

At the 2008 Games, Dara finished second in the 50-meter freestyle. A year later, essentially racing on one leg and with limited training, she somehow gutted it out and made it to the 50 finals in Rome. She finished eighth -- that is, last in the race.

No matter -- she had made it to the finals. She was, at age 42, still one of the eight best in the world.

"She deserves all the respect in the world for stepping up against the odds," Michael said then, adding, "With basically 20 percent of training September through April, two months of training, no leg work … I think to expect anything else is unrealistic and somewhat stupid."


Last September, Dara announced she was planning to launch a try for the London Games. I suggested -- using this reference from Michael -- that  pretty much anything Olympic was more interesting with Dara around: "The movie is more attractive when Julia Roberts is in it."

If Dara qualifies for London -- by then she'll be 45 -- perhaps enough time will have passed so that any racing she does there can serve as a tribute to Michael.

Bruno Darzi and Chris Jackson, who had helped Michael get her ready for Beijing and 2008, are still on board, so there's continuity.

Right now, though, no one's thinking much about any of that.

Right now, it's all just so raw. Right now, every little thing feels like heartbreak.

At practice these past couple days, Dara said, she does a flip-turn and sees the flags at half-mast -- and here come the tears.

"This whole week there hasn't been a time at practice when I haven't been crying," she said.

"I know it's going to take a while," she said. "Everything in my swimming world is a reminder. It's really tough right now."

For her and for all of us who knew, and appreciated, Michael Lohberg, a good and decent man.

On Natalie Coughlin's greatness

Natalie Coughlin, who over the past two Summer Olympics has won 11 medals, opened her 2011 season by racing in three finals this past weekend at the Eric Namesnik Michigan Grand Prix, held at one of America's best swim halls, Canham Auditorium, in Ann Arbor. She won the 100-meter backstroke and came in second in both the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. Dana Vollmer won both those events.

It is the nature of Olympic-style racing that when a great swimmer such as Coughlin goes one-for-three in an early-season meet there is the temptation from some quarters to wonder if something is somehow amiss.

As if she's supposed to win every single race she enters.

"Am I supposed to?" she said with a bewildered laugh.

That, truly, is the greatness of Natalie Coughlin.

She has won three Olympic gold medals. She has won four Olympic silver medals. She has won four Olympic bronze medals. In London next year, Coughlin could become the most-decorated American female athlete in Olympic history, depending perhaps in part on Dara Torres, who -- like yet another swimmer, Jenny Thompson -- has 12 medals.

If it can be incredible to be normal, what sets Coughlin apart within the Olympic scene is her normal-ness -- arguably, that's not even a word but there's seemingly no other way to put it - as well as her remarkably refreshing perspective on competition and on what constitutes success.

Indeed, her attitude ought to be packaged up and shipped out to playgrounds everywhere where winning-is-the-only-thing jerks hold sway.

It's a little bit like the bit of philosophy she offered in her Twitter feed from the Michigan meet: "Swimming is funny; effort & force don't always translate to fast swims. The water is dynamic & doesn't always respond to sheer force."

Natalie Coughlin is living proof that you can train hard, eat right, maintain balance in your home and professional lives, be happy puttering around your garden, derive satisfaction as an amateur photographer, root for the California Golden Bears, watch the sun set over the Golden Gate, all of that.

And win, at the highest level. More -- not only win but win with great elegance.

And reflect thusly: "Swimming is important to me. It's not everything to me."

That is not to minimize the import of swimming in her life.

Rather, Natalie Coughlin offers evidence that what counts in life is really living -- that it can be a good thing to, say, step out of your comfort zone by doing something like going on "Dancing with the Stars."  All along, that was the sort of deal that carried the risk of messing up in front of millions of people. So what? Moreover, everyone knew from the get-go that she was a swimmer, not a dancer. So she didn't come in first place. Again, so what? She loved it, loved the experience. That's a win.

"The reason I did [the show] and I don't think people believe me," she said, "is I just wanted to learn how to dance."

Success, she said, is "different for everyone."

"For me," she added, "it's doing my best. Obviously, I am not saying I don't appreciate gold medals or world records or winning. I don't think that should define a career. For me, that doesn't define a career."

She also said, "One of the most frustrating things for me, after watching a competition or the broadcast of something, is when the announcer says, 'How disappointing for so-and-so -- they get the silver medal.'

"I don't think anyone but the athlete gets to decide that. It's a dangerous message to kids to tell them they have to win to be successful. There's only one winner in every event. If everyone else is a failure, what are we doing?"

Think back, she said, to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and the men's 200-meter freestyle. Michael Phelps won, and set a new world record. "The silver medalist in the 200 free," Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea -- "wasn't he successful?"

She paused. "Because he was beaten by Michael, that doesn't mean he wasn't successful."

Another pause. "If you can say you did your best, that's all you can do."

And enjoy it along the way -- you have to enjoy it along the way. There's so much attention in a sport such as swimming to the peak moment that is the Olympic Games. But the focus on that moment, even if it's understandable, ignores all that it takes to get there.

"I love training," Coughlin said. "I love pushing myself every day. I love working out."

Soon enough, it will be summer, and the world championships in Shanghai will be here. For Coughlin, that meet in Michigan was not only her first long-course meet of the year, it made for her first long-course meet since last summer.

Those second-place finishes behind Vollmer, who is herself of course an excellent swimmer -- in each of the two races, they came by about a half a second. Come on. It's April.

Again from her Twitter feed -- Teri McKeever, her coach, had told her to "fly & die" in the 100 free, which she did, finishing in 54.93, just back of Vollmer's 54.52. "Great start to the longcourse season," Coughlin wrote.

She said, "If you're going to be sad you lost a race -- how many people are in a race? 200? 199 are going to cry about it? I've been competing for 20 years. If I freaked out about little things I would have gone crazy by now."

No crazy here. It's all good.

Her times were good. Her strokes "felt great." Overall, she said, "I was really, really happy."

Dara is back, and that's good

True enough, over the past year or so Dara Torres hadn't committed herself to competitive swimming. Not in any way. Not with the knee surgery, the shoulder surgery, the book tour, the motivational speaking, the travel -- and, most important, the being a mom to daughter Tessa, who's now 4 1/2. Then again, Dara secretly probably knew deep down all along that vying for London and 2012 was her destiny. And here is the telling clue: All this time, she kept herself in the athlete drug-testing pool.

"So if I decided to swim again," she was saying the other day on the telephone, "people wouldn't question me," wouldn't be able to suggest that she'd had a lengthy window to do whatever or use whatever.

And, she said, "They were very diligent in continuing to test me."

Earlier this month, on the "Live with Regis and Kelly" TV show, Dara said she's back in the game. She said she intends to try to make the London 2012 Summer Games, a turn that's good for her, good for swimming, good for the Olympic movement.

Click here to read the rest at TeamUSA.org.