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40 greatest female athletes: Dara Torres

Dara Torres says her dry-land workouts have helped her race at an Olympic level for more than 25 years. Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

In the swimming pool, nobody has been faster longer than Dara Torres.

The 45-year-old mother, who is No. 25 in ESPN's countdown, has collected 12 Olympic medals over five Games, including three silvers at the 2008 Games when she was 41. Torres is still among the best in the world on any given day, swimming a time of 25.24 seconds in a runner-up finish in the 50-meter freestyle at the U.S. winter nationals last year, and is attempting to swim in her sixth Olympics this summer in London.

Whether she makes it or not, her place in the sport is safe.

"We've never seen anything like what she's done," says Rowdy Gaines, the NBC swimming analyst and three-time gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. "Certainly, among women, she's one of the most influential swimmers of all time."

Read the complete story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw