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A 16-year-old, Cate Campbell, actually swam faster than Torres, who was winning medals at Olympic Games before the young Australian was born.“She’s an amazing woman,” Campbell said. No way.”Torres, who won her semifinal heat today in 24.27 seconds, was just like her once.

She was a teenager and the 1984 Olympics were being staged in her hometown.

I swim once or twice a week now strictly for exercise. To me, that was more of a challenge, so I just said bring it on.

I do boxing twice a week, do The Bar Method four times a week and lift weights to try to mix it up. The older I get, the more I have to listen to my body. People were relying on me to be the face of middle age, but the Olympic trials felt like I had to make the team to prove that age is just a number.

Her father, Eddie Torres, bought the Aladdin (in a partnership with Wayne Newton) 13 years later. She invokes his name on her website to this day, on the verge of unprecedented Olympic greatness, saying, “I look deep inside my soul and wonder what my father would tell me.” She thought of her dad in Omaha last month when she, at 41, became our oldest swimming Olympian ever.“I was feeling him with me in that race,” Dara said, adding that she later tried to avert her gaze because those drops spilling down her cheeks were not from the pool.

By then his daughter the swim prodigy was a fixture in the pools of Beverly Hills, including the one in the Torres family’s sprawling 10-bath home there. And the nerves are still there for her, even at this age.

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She retains a childlike enthusiasm, describing these Olympics thus far as “awesome in every way” and calling the Water Cube “the most awesome facility I’ve ever been in.”Splashing in a pool is bringing out the kid in her.

Dara already had been a competitive swimmer at 8, broken a world record at 14 and made a name for herself at Westlake School for Girls, an academy established in 1904 with the school credo Possunt Quia Posse Videntur.(“They can because they think they can.”)A lot of accomplished individuals have come out of the now co-educational school, renamed Harvard-Westlake, among them astronaut Sally Ride and actors Shirley Temple, Candice Bergen and Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

But back in 1984, it was young Dara Torres who caught the world’s eye by winning a gold medal at a very tender age.

She summoned her courage and came through in the end, joining Jenna Johnson, Carrie Steinseifer and Nancy Hogshead to win the gold medal by nearly a full second over the runners-up from Holland. By then he was a major player in Vegas, having owned a piece of the Riviera and the Fremont casinos, buying the Aladdin (which is now Planet Hollywood), taking over the Thunderbird and turning it into the El Rancho, booking the biggest guests and acts, being on a first-name basis with the highest rollers and hottest stars.

Eddie was married then to Marylu Kauder, a former fashion model, who remains Dara’s most enthusiastic fan in the stands.

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