By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, December 14, 2017
Five months since giving birth to son No. 2 Ryker, Dana Vollmer is back in the water with her sights set on Tokyo in 3 years.
Unlike two-plus years ago when she had son No. 1 Arlen, she didn’t take as long a break from swimming this time, so her return to training hasn’t been as painstaking or slow.
And while she’s not ready to say she’s on target to compete with the world’s best in the 100 butterfly just yet, she does feel like she can put together a pretty strong 50 fly as well as 50 freestyle.
Until her body catches up with her long-term goals – namely being back in fighting shape to contend for a spot on her fourth Olympic team in 2020 – Vollmer said she’s happy with what it’s giving her in the short term.
“My goal is to get on the team next summer (at Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships) and build from there, but having two boys 2 and under doesn’t always allow me the time or opportunity,” said Vollmer, who continues to train at her alma mater, the University of California-Berkeley, with her college coach, Teri McKeever.
“Even though my days are fuller now with activities and care for the boys, my life has never been more fulfilling. Each day is a true gift of love and time with family and being able to do what I love: swimming.”
When she dove back into the water this fall, Vollmer said she initially tried heading to the pool early in the mornings – around 4:30 a.m. – before the boys were up and their days started.
But she said it didn’t take long for her to realize this wasn’t the best option. She quickly ran herself ragged and into exhaustion – impacting her entire day and her interaction with her sons.
“It didn’t take me long to change my schedule so I had more energy to play with two active, lovable boys,” said Vollmer, who qualified for her first Trials (2000) at 12 years old and made her first Olympic team at 16 (2004). “Now, I go to the pool at 7 a.m. and swim for 45 minutes. When I’m done, I feel energized.
“I’ve really started listening more to my body, and even though I’m just 30 years old, I have to take care of myself differently now than in the past. I’ve also been texting with Dara (Torres) and other moms who swam to learn what worked for them to have a really strong base of information. But I started out in much better shape after this pregnancy than I did in 2015, so my road back shouldn’t take as long.”
While she admits she’s still weeks – perhaps longer – from swimming a competitive 100 fly without running out of steam, Vollmer said her perspective about swimming and life has experienced serious evolution in recent years.
In 2012 – after missing making the Olympic team four years earlier despite heaving expectations – her focus was all swimming.
There was no time for distractions or other interests – her days were focused on training and lifting – doing whatever it took to make the Olympic team, win gold and set a new world record.
When she left London with two gold medals and two world marks, her focus quickly changed to her life with husband, Andy, and starting a family.
Shortly after having Arlen, Vollmer took a step back and decided she still had more to accomplish – and she still loved swimming.
In just over a year, she was back in world-class shape, made the Olympic team and became one of the few American – or otherwise – mothers to win Olympic gold as a member of the U.S. 400 medley relay team. She also brought home a bronze medal in the 100 fly.
“No one was catching Sarah (Sjostrom) for gold, but I was so close to winning silver,” Vollmer said of her finals race in the 100 fly. “Still, to be away from swimming for as long as I was and win any medal was extremely special for me.”
Now, with Ryker filling her life in very different, but amazing, ways than Arlen does, Vollmer said she’s ready to make yet another comeback.
And if she never makes another National, World Championship or Olympic team, she said she will always be glad she gave it another shot.
Because she did it for herself first.
“Why not give it another try when I’m still loving swimming as much as I do?” said Vollmer, who is planning to compete at the TYR Pro Swim Series at Austin in January and build from there for the season. “It hasn’t been easy, and when days or sets get really hard, I reflect back to the days when I just had to feed myself and take care of just me, and I’m reminded how much I love my life and how balanced it is.
“No matter what happens even if I don’t make it all the way back this time, it will still be as special as the other times because I love swimming as much now as I ever have.”
And what about adding more to her family in the future?
“We’ve always dreams of adding a little girl to our family, but right now I think we’re good at having two,” she said. “But if we do decide to have more kids, it won’t be until after 2020.”