Granbury's Dana Vollmer hopes to re-join ranks of golden girls

Posted Sunday, Jul. 15, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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Abby Kirkpatrick and Allison Walker are big swimming fans. And as butterfliers, the 12-year-old swimmers from South Bend, Ind., are two of Dana Vollmer's biggest fans.

During the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., Vollmer was on her way to lunch when she spotted the girls wearing her official Speedo T-shirt. Vollmer had her husband, Andy Grant, call them over for photos and autographs.

"It was so cool," Kirkpatrick said.

It was cool for Vollmer, too, as it was the first time she saw strangers publicly proclaim their adoration for her.

With Janet Evans' comeback officially over, and Natalie Coughlin having qualified only for the 400-meter free relay, women's swimming will get a face-lift at the London Games in late July. Missy Franklin, 17, is poised to become the star of stars as she is the first American female to qualify to swim seven events in an Olympics.

But seven other American female swimmers have shots at multiple medals, including Vollmer.

The Granbury product was one of a handful of swimmers USA Swimming featured in giant posters on the doors of CenturyLink Center, where the trials were held. She had her picture taken with herself as a keepsake.

Eight years after Vollmer won her first -- and currently only -- Olympic gold medal, doors are opening for her.

"It's really exciting," Vollmer said. "That's the first time I've ever made it on the door.... A couple of meets over the past four years I'd always hoped to be on the door.

"I feel like I'm finally making a name for myself. It's been amazing to feel like I'm starting to be recognized without my cap on. It's just really exciting to be in that place."

A day after she won the 100-meter butterfly at the trials, Vollmer's T-shirts were sold out at the Speedo USA booth at CenturyLink. Every other Team Speedo swimmer, including Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, had shirts available for purchase.

Vollmer, 24, has picked up Twitter followers since then, too, and now has almost 8,000.

"I think it's an opportunity that is there for her in the fact that it's whatever she wants it to be," said her coach, Teri McKeever, who also is the women's coach for Team USA. "That's the great thing about where this sport is now. I don't think Dana is swimming to have people pay attention to who she is, but it is an opportunity.

"She's been a significant contributor to relays and last summer had some breakthroughs individually and, hopefully, she can continue to do that and really evaluate what she wants to do as she moves forward."

Vollmer has the Olympic rings tattooed in the small of her back with "2004" inside the upper left ring. She was only a 16-year-old high school student when she won a gold medal in the 800 free relay in 2004 in Athens.

She had planned to fill in the rings with the other years she qualified for the Olympics -- 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 -- but she failed to make it to Beijing four years ago. Now, she is in no hurry to fill in the blanks. Her future is now.

"Depending on what happens -- looking to 2016 -- I think I might wait until the actual end of my swimming career, and then hopefully fill in the dates," Vollmer said. "We'll see. Who knows?"

Vollmer is the Olympic favorite in the 100 fly, having won the world championship in the event last year and with the fastest time in the world this year. She has not lost a final in her specialty in more than a year.

Vollmer also is expected to swim the 800 free relay and the medley relay.

She has a chance to become one of America's golden girls.

"To know what I've done in the past four years and the growth I've had as a young lady, getting married, and just so many things in my life that have changed, bringing me where I am now," Vollmer said. "It's neat to reflect on where I've come."

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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