Dana Vollmer calls herself a “momma on a mission.” After winning four Olympic gold medals, the swimmer briefly retired to start a family. Now, as the proud parent of a one-year-old boy, she’s back in the water, juggling diaper changes with training for Olympic glory in Rio.
An Early Start
In 2000, the 12-year-old Vollmer was the youngest swimmer to ever compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She didn't make the cut to represent Team USA in Sydney, but her results in Athens four years later proved well worth the wait.
At the 2004 Olympics, Vollmer earned a gold medal in the women's freestyle relay; her team’s performance broke the previous world record, which had stood for 17 years.
She then swam for one year as a University of Florida Gator before transferring to UC Berkeley. The most valuable Golden Bears swimmer three years in a row, Vollmer received the inaugural Honda Sports Award as the best female college swimmer in 2009.
Vollmer enjoyed another collegiate swimming highlight at the 2007 World Aquatics Championships. As part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team, she earned a gold medal; she also took home two silver medals for the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays.
Unfortunately, she missed going to the 2008 Beijing Olympics by just 0.51 seconds. She was now more determined than ever to swim in the London Olympics in 2012.
In 2011, Vollmer married former Stanford University swimmer Andy Grant. Still a newlywed, she returned to the U.S. Olympic Trials with renewed vigor: She finished first in the 100-meter butterfly and third in the 200-meter freestyle.
London proved to be a triumph for Vollmer. In the 100-meter butterfly, she not only won gold but also set a world record of 55.98 seconds.
In total, she took home three gold medals, including victories in the 200-meter freestyle relay and the 100-meter medley relay.
After the 2013 World Aquatics Championships, where she won a bronze medal, Vollmer stopped swimming competitively. She never officially retired, but her October 2014 announcement that she was five-months pregnant clearly put her swimming career on hold.
My most exciting news yet 😍... pic.twitter.com/r5RgiuXgNF— Dana Vollmer (@danavollmer) October 10, 2014
After giving birth in March of 2015, Vollmer has been committed to getting back into the pool and training for Rio.
The Road to Rio
Vollmer now appears more dedicated than ever. Though her world record for the 100-meter butterfly has been broken (by Sarah Sjöström of Sweden), her recent performances at the Arena Pro Swimming Series show that she’s still highly competitive at age 28.
Vollmer’s Olympic prospects look very bright. Regardless of the outcome in Rio, she stands as an inspiration to mothers everywhere, demonstrating that they can still follow their dreams while having a fulfilling family life as well.