At aged 7, Torres started following her brothers to swim practice at the local Y. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Torres was a member of the winning U. women's 4×100-meter freestyle relay team, earning a gold medal for swimming in the first-round qualifying heat as well the event final. At the trials, she qualified for the event finals in the 50-meter freestyle and broke the American record with a time of 24.38 seconds in the semi-final. On August 17, 2008, at the age of 41 years and 125 days, she won the silver medal in the women's 50-meter freestyle, finishing in a new American record time of 24.07 seconds.
For the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Torres qualified for the U. Olympic women's team in one individual event and two relay events. Torres won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, but, as usual, saved her best for two of the major relay events of the U. In the 50-meter finals, she broke that record for the ninth time, setting it at 24.25 seconds and winning the top American women's spot in the event. swim team's final training in Singapore, Torres, Amanda Beard, and Natalie Coughlin were elected captains of the U. Torres' twelve Olympic medals tied the all-time medal record for a female Olympic swimmer set by fellow American Jenny Thompson in 2004; American Natalie Coughlin subsequently equaled the record in 2012.
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Torres earned a bronze medal for swimming for the third-place U. On July 7, Torres pulled out of 100-meter freestyle event to focus her efforts on the 50-meter freestyle. In the mid-1990s, she married and subsequently divorced sports producer Jeff Gowen.