It’s not all about Dara Torres: In the Olympics just concluded, the parade of older athletes had become nearly commonplace. (For now we’re including marathon winner Constantina Tomescu, above, who at 38 will qualify as a WVFC member before she knows it.)Though, of course, their achievements were nothing of the kind:

Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, 49 and racing in her seventh Olympics for France, just missed a medal, placing fourth in the cycling road time trial…Libby Callahan, 56 and the oldest American woman to compete in the Olympics, finished 25th in the 25-meter pistol and may try again in 2012. “I’m not ruling it out,” Ms. Callahan said. “I don’t want to put any restrictions on myself.”

Susan Nattrass, 57, of Canada, was the oldest shooter to compete at the Beijing Games. She finished 11th in the trap-shooting event and is promising, sort of, to retire. “Everybody laughs about this, because nobody believes it’s going to happen,” Ms. Nattrass said of her retirement talk. “My teammates and my friends competing don’t believe I’m going to be retiring, and my family don’t believe it — but I keep saying it.”

And when you’re done, time for that Nobel Prize. Life after the Olympics, for cyclist Bunki Bankaitis-Davis, was a return to her other dream of becoming a world-class microbiologist.

Ms. Davis picked up more than just a degree at UNC. She also met her future husband, a student and an avid amateur bicyclist. When Ms. Davis developed running-related foot problems, he encouraged her to try cycling. She did. And soon Ms. Davis began entering races, even competing in men’s contests for tougher competition. After a couple of years of racing as a hobby—while still studying for her Ph.D. full-time—she was spotted by the women’s U.S. National Team coach.

When she finished her graduate studies, the coach offered her a spot on the team, giving her a shot at the Olympics. She also had a job offer from Celanese Corp., a maker of chemical products and fabrics, but she couldn’t resist cycling. “Everybody was mystified and stupefied, thinking I was throwing away hard years of college and a promising research career,” she says, recalling how disappointed her brother and parents were with her decision.

After a year, she qualified to compete in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, placing 14th in the Women’s Individual Road Race. Four years later, she was an alternate at the Barcelona Games. She continued racing, and after taking first place in the team time trials at the World Championship in Benidorm, Spain, in 1992, Ms. Davis decided to retire.

It was a tough decision, says Julie Gavrilis, the team manager. “She was winning races. She could have gone on for much longer. It’s always hard for a professional athlete to give up racing. They have so much passion and dedication invested.” But Ms. Davis wanted to leave cycling on a winning arc and start her research career before it was too late.

Warning on Moisturizers: Last week, we looked at the most common surgical methods for banishing wrinkles. Now, after reading Business Week, we’re worried about those creams that were promising so much:

Common moisturizing creams helped skin cancers spread and tumors grow in mice exposed to UV radiation, researchers at Rutgers University reported Thursday. “These creams we tested have tumorigenic [tumor-causing capability] activities,” said lead researcher Allan H. Conney, from the university’s Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research.

But, he added, “I need to emphasize that what we have done is only in mice. We don’t know what the implications are for humans. But it does raise a red flag that this is something that should be considered.”

For the study, Conney’s team exposed hairless mice to an extended period of UV radiation, which induced non-melanoma skin cancer. After stopping UV treatment, they applied four different common brands of skin moisturizers to the animals’ skin five days a week for 17 weeks.The researchers found that mice treated with skin moisturizers showed an increased rate of tumor formation. In addition, there were more tumors on the animals treated with moisturizers than on the mice that were only given UV radiation.

The moisturizers used were Dermabase, made by Patrick Laboratories in Minneapolis; Dermovan, made by Galderma Laboratory Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas; Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream, made by Beiersdorf of Hamburg Germany; and Vanicream, made by Pharmaceutical Specialties Inc., in Rochester, Minn.

Conney’s group identified several ingredients in the moisturizers that appear to enhance tumor growth.

“We took out a couple of ingredients and made a cream that turned out to be non-tumorigenic,” Conney said. The resulting lotion did not increase cancer growth in mice exposed to UV radiation, the researchers found.

“We really don’t know what ingredients in these creams are doing that,” Conney said. “There is a need to have the various companies test their creams to see whether or not there is a problem.”

Julia
Keeping the secrets of what we really want to eat: The next time you’re on a business trip and decide to kick back at an inexpensive “family restaurant,” it’s more than likely that entering the zone of DineEquity CEO Julia Stewart, 53, who left Applebees to work for IHOP and then helped IHOP swallow her former employer. “Wall
Street likes Stewart, and likes the merger too,” notes Forbes. “The stock is up 40 percent.” Stewart now spends her days investigating Americans’ high-sugar, high fat tastes:

Last year Ms. Stewart became chief executive. She left the company as president of the domestic division in 2001 after being passed over for the top spot. She landed at IHOP (where she had worked as a waitress in high school), and began to rehabilitate what has become the nation’s largest family restaurant chain. Then, in a turn soaked with satisfaction IHOP absorbed the Applebee’s chain.

In her business, people use phrases like “drink equity” and “healthy indulgence rebranding.” Everyone is on the hunt for the next “craveable,” an item like a whole deep-fried onion, a potato skin stuffed with bacon or, in Applebee’s case, the riblet. At $18.99 for a couple of side dishes and a cut that might otherwise have ended up in the scrap heap, riblets are a sweet profit center…

Applebee’s flags some menu items that have been approved by Weight
Watchers, but the company is not exactly cutting a path through the
calorie jungle. That’s because what people say they want and what
they eat are often different, she said as she sat in a booth at the
IHOP. Nearby, a family of four was pouring different flavors of syrup
over stacks of pancakes. “That’s what people want,” she said.

Among
the dozen dishes on her table that day was the Georgia praline peach
streusel pancake, a dish so sweet it made a Butterfinger bar seem like
a refreshing palate cleanser. It’s an item in IHOP’s Discover America
pancake series, designed to mark the company’s 50th birthday.

– Chris L.