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Latinx Heritage Month

On this day in Latinx history: Dara Torres performs swimmingly at 2000 Olympics

The Cuban-American sets herself up to win medal in the 50 freestyle

Dara Torres, the oldest woman to make a U.S. Olympic swimming team, moved closer to her goal of winning a medal in the 50-meter freestyle on Sept. 22, 2000, the second-to-last day of swimming at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

The 33-year-old Cuban-American finished second in her semifinal race (24.96 seconds) behind Inge de Bruijn (24.46) of the Netherlands. Torres beat American teammate and 1996 Olympic 50 free champion Amy Van Dyken in the morning preliminaries as both women advanced to the evening semifinals.

In the Sept. 23 final, Torres took bronze in 24.63 seconds, while De Bruijn won gold (24.32) and Sweden’s Therese Alshammar took silver (24.51).

Torres then had to hurry so she could anchor the 4×100-meter medley relay team, which broke the world record in 3 minutes, 58.30 seconds.

Torres became the oldest woman to medal in Olympic swimming and garnered five in Sydney, more than anyone on the U.S. squad. She took gold in two relays (4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley) and earned bronze in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. That brought Torres’ career medal haul to nine in three Games over 16 years.

“I’m happy, I’m just bummed that it’s over,” Torres told The Boston Globe. “It’s been a wonderful year, an awesome journey. It just hit me that it’s over. Fifteen months ago, I just wanted to be an alternate on the relay team.”

Torres qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games at 41, making her the oldest swimmer, man or woman, to represent the U.S. She won silver in the 50 freestyle, 4×100 medley relay and 4×100 freestyle relay. Torres is the first American to swim in five Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008).

Torres’ 12 medals — four gold, four silver and four bronze — tie her with Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin for most Olympic medals in women’s swimming history.

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.