Top Jewish Olympian is almost unknown

  • 1-Milner Jack
If one had ask who is the most successful Jewish Olympic athlete. I’m sure most people would think for a moment and then come up with the name Mark Spitz. Spitz won 11 medals and no doubt, is the Jewish competitor with the most gold medals.
by JACK MILNER | Jul 23, 2014

Nine of his medals were gold with one silver and two bronze. Of course, at Munich in 1972 he won what was then a record seven gold medals, which was only bettered by Michael Phelps at Beijing in 2008.

The most number of medals won by a Jewish athlete also goes to a swimmer, but it was a woman, Dara Torres.

Who, you may ask? It must have been many years ago.

Actually it wasn’t. Remarkably Torres, an American swimmer, showed superb athletic longevity and participated in four Olympic Games, from 1984 to 2008, setting records along the way.

Still in high school, Torres took part in her first Olympics - the 1984 Los Angeles Games - where she was a member of the winning US women's 4x100m relay team, earning a gold medal for swimming in the first-round qualifying heat as well the event final.

She continued to swim in the Olympics for Team USA, winning medals at the 1988 Seoul Games and the 1992 Barcelona Games. She did not swim in Atlanta in 1996 but did so in 2000 when she made her first comeback to the US team; at age 33 she was the oldest member of the swim team, and won five medals - two gold and three bronze - at the Sydney Games.

Torres is featured in the book Gold in the Water by PH Mullen, which describes her comeback for the 2000 Olympics.

In 2005, Torres was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

On August 1, 2007, at the age of 40, just 15 months after giving birth to her first child, she won gold in the 100m freestyle at the US Nationals in Indianapolis, her 14th win at the event. She followed that up on August 4 by twice breaking her own American record in the 50m freestyle, 26 years after she first set the American record at the age of 15.

When she was 41, Torres returned to the pool to win a spot in her fifth Olympic Games - the 2008 Beijing Games - an unprecedented accomplishment for a female swimmer. 

Qualifying for the Games, Torres became the oldest swimmer in American Olympic history and also the first female in history to swim in the Olympics past age 40. She won a silver medal in Beijing as the anchor swimmer of the US 4x100m freestyle relay. This was the fifth time in five tries she earned an Olympic medal in that event.

Remarkably, she did not want it to end there. Following reconstructive surgery to one of her knees, in September 2010 she began training with the goal of competing at the 2012 London Olympics. At the 2012 US Olympic trials, she placed fourth in the finals of the 50m freestyle, 0,32 seconds behind the winner, Jessica Hardy, and 0,09 second behind the second qualifier, Kara Lynn Joyce. 

As only the top two finishers in each event qualified for the Olympics, Torres narrowly missed out on a record sixth Games and her Olympic career came to an end.

Her father was Jewish but not her mother. However, when she married Israeli-born surgeon Itzhak Shasha, Torres converted to Judaism. They later divorced but Torres then became

1 Comment

  1. 1 Dr Hilary Denis Solomons 23 Jul
    I think that chess is a sport; perhaps an intelectual sport !
    If that is the case then Bobby Fisher the Grand Master champion must be considered the greatest jewish spotsman of all time !
    To the best of my knowledge he acknowledged that he was indeed Jewish .
    I rest my case .


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