Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Age is Just a Number - By Dara Torres

Year of Publication: 2009
Authors: Dara Torres and Elizabeth Weil

I know I have mentioned at some point how I find some of my favourite books. There’s absolutely nothing like wandering through the aisle of a bookshop and idly glancing through the shelves not really looking for anything and then having your eye arrested by a catchy cover or an interesting title. Then, you pick up the book and skim through the synopsis on the back and then decide quite suddenly that “I’ll take this!”

And then it turns out to be one of your best decisions ever!

Does that sound familiar? Yes? No?

Ah well, if it’s not, I hope you soon experience this joy. It’s true what they say: you find what you’re looking for when you’re not looking. (Well, sometimes this is true. And the other times, you need to have a carefully mapped-out action plan!)

So, I was wandering through a bookshop in Lagos, not really looking for anything and (everything else I said in the first paragraph………..). I took a second look at this book because the lady on the cover appeared to be standing in front of a huge swimming pool.

Is this a book about swimming or does she just happen to be posing in front of a pool? I wondered.

When I picked up the book, I discovered that it was by Olympian swimmer Dara Torres.

The other thing you might know if you read this blog is that I love swimming. I’m not saying I’m a fantastic swimmer, but I love water and swimming very much. The other thing is that although I love swimming, I don’t actually know any swimmers. So, Dara Torres was not a familiar name to me.

However, I turned to the first page and read: I’ve been old before. I was old when I was 27 and I got divorced. I was old when I was 35 and I couldn’t get pregnant. I was really old when I was 39 and my father died. But when I was 41 and I woke up in a dorm in the Olympic Village in Beijing, I didn’t feel old. I felt merely – and, yes, happily – middle-aged.

A story about someone who battles the odds? Oh yes, I totally love those! And this book Age is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life perfectly captures the experiences of having to live out your dreams in the face of naysayers and ‘conventional’ thinking that would seem to suggest that you are out of your mind for even daring to entertain the thoughts of said goal.

DT, as she’s affectionately known by her friends and family, is seemingly a strong tower in the ensuing maelstrom of disbelief when she decides, as a pregnant 38 year old, to try for her 5th Olympics.

I love her determination, but also her honesty when she admits to sometimes being shaken by peoples’ opinions and expectations. Wavering in the middle of difficulty is natural, but ultimately success comes from deciding what’s important to you and staying true to that. So, DT focuses on her goal and surrounds herself with the best team to help prepare her 40-something year old body for her 5th shot at Olympic glory – including her not-so secret weapon, but one which confounded even her coach at some point: her stretchers Anne and Steve.

The book is organized by themes in Dara’s life, for instance On Making a Comeback, On Being an Older Athlete, On Not Giving Up, On Being a Younger Athlete and not in a strictly linear manner from her childhood to adulthood. So, sometimes it was a little confusing for me, having to get used to the constant back and forth from teenage years to adulthood pre-baby to childhood, and back to adulthood post-baby. However, the chapters build-up quite nicely to the grand finale: the Olympic Trials and then to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I found myself speeding through the pages in anticipation of what would happen next: would she or wouldn’t she.

Obviously, if you like swimming, you will enjoy this book. And if you don’t like swimming, I think you will still enjoy this book.

While I really dislike the title of the book – Age is Just a Number – (I feel that this doesn’t fully capture what the book is all about), it does indicate how Dara’s story can inspire anyone at whatever stage of their life, who feels that their time to make their dreams come true has come and gone. In these pages, she shows that you can push beyond the accepted way of thinking and, with a lot of hard work and discipline, help birth your dreams into reality.

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