ROME // Dara Torres could not believe how slow she went in her first individual race of the World Championships. She also could not miss what everyone else was wearing. After switching swimsuits, Torres, 42, safely qualified for the semi-finals of the 50m freestyle yesterday, posting the seventh-fastest time at 24.67secs.
In the same event, Kate Campbell of Australia set a meet record. The 17-year-old swimmer set a time of 24.24secs, outperforming world record holder Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands. But back to Torres. The American, who is sponsored by Speedo, stuck with that company's year-old LZR Racer for the 50 butterfly on Friday - and had a miserable result. She tied for 17th in the preliminaries and was eliminated. "I was just shocked at how slow I went," Torres said.
Now, her performance could have been due to a knee that would require two operations to repair after the championships. But Torres also saw all those swimmers wearing polyurethane suits and decided she had to try something different, even at the risk of offending her sponsor. For the 50 free, she wore a Jaked - with the logo on the chest blacked out. "I don't want to get myself in trouble," she said.
"Obviously I'm sponsored by Speedo. But everyone here is wearing these suits and they seem to be going fast. The times are outrageous, what's going on here. "I feel like if you want to be on par with everyone, you have to do what they're doing." While Torres moved on, the US women shockingly failed to qualify for the final of the 400 medley relay, managing only the 10th-best time with a team that included Elizabeth Pelton, Kasey Carlson, Christine Magnuson and Julia Smit. This will be the first time in 13 World Championships that the US failed to win gold or silver in the women's medley relay.
The Americans took silver at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, and matched that performance in Beijing last summer with Torres swimming the anchor leg. But in Rome, China led the way in the preliminaries at 3mins 56.14secs, while defending world champions Australia barely got through in seventh at 3-58.36. Championship records also fell in the men's 50m backstroke and women's 50m breaststroke. Brazil's Guilherme Guido swam the fastest 50m back time of 24.49secs while Russian Yulia Efimova led the one-lap breaststroke in 30.24secs.