Vollmer has never been better with diamonds, golds

07/30/2011 11:41 PM

07/31/2011 12:02 AM

Dana Vollmer has a diamond ring on her finger and gold medals around her neck. Life couldn't be better.

After injuries and disappointments, the Granbury product won her first major individual title last week, winning the 100-meter butterfly at the world swimming championships. She is coming back from Shanghai with two golds, having helped the 4x100-meter medley relay to victory Saturday.

Vollmer hopes to duplicate that -- and more -- at the Olympic Games in London next summer, where she could become the star that she was expected to become in 2008.

But as promising as her career in the pool is, it is her personal life is even better. She will be married to Andy Grant on Aug. 20 in Grant's hometown of Livermore, Calif.

"He is absolutely the man of my dreams," Vollmer said in an e-mail from Shanghai. "We met at the Olympic Trials in 2004, and I had a crush on him ever since. He was so charming and handsome when we met that I was terrified to talk to him. I was 16 and still very shy talking to guys I liked."

It was only by mistake that the two established a relationship. Vollmer was 20 and a senior at the University of California when she sent a text message intended for Andy Oros, a friend on the Cal baseball team, to Grant instead.

"Lucky for me, Andy was thrilled I had written him," Vollmer, 23, said. "He asked me on a date, and we have been together and in love ever since."

She credits Grant with helping her rediscover her love of swimming.

Vollmer failed to make the U.S. team in 2008, barely missing qualifying in the 100 butterfly, the 100 free and the 200 free. A back injury and the pressure of the trials were her undoing.

Vollmer refused to watch the Beijing Games, but instead of quitting, she renewed her commitment to the sport.

"At the time, missing the Olympic team was one of the hardest moments I had faced," said Vollmer, who rebounded in 2009 to become the nation's top collegiate female athlete in her sport. "Now, looking back, I have turned it into such a learning experience, and I don't think I would have turned things around with my career if I had made [the Olympic team].

"Am I still nervous going into trials for 2012? Yes. But I work on making it as fun as possible, and focusing on the races that I love to swim. I've discovered I love training in the ocean, doing pilates, and finding alternative ways to train besides always being in the pool."

Vollmer competed in the 100 fly, the 50 fly, the 100 free, the 4x100 freestyle relay and the medley relay in Shanghai. The medley relay set an American record Saturday in winning the event, as Vollmer swam a 55.74-second split on her butterfly leg.

Vollmer had also qualified in the 200 free, but newly discovered food allergies, which were zapping her energy, forced her to change her training methods and drop the event.

Vollmer said she and coach Teri McKeever are discussing adding the 200 free back to her schedule in the fall.

Vollmer already has earned comparisons to Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing, but the first step for Vollmer was winning an individual event at a major competition.

She did that last week by beating Australia's Alicia Coutts and China's Lu Ying in the 100 fly. It came a day after she set the American record in the event -- the world's fourth-best and fastest by a woman not wearing a speedsuit -- with a 56.47 in the preliminaries.

"My sprints have been feeling amazing this season," Vollmer said. "I've been doing new strength training and more power work in the pool."

Vollmer's Olympic medal from 2004 is in a display case in her parents' home in Granbury. Medals are nice, but diamonds -- at least symbolically -- are a girl's best friend.

"Andy has had a huge impact on my swimming," Vollmer said. "He helped me take pressures off myself. I realized that swimming was a game and something I did because I enjoyed it, and even if I never swam another lap, he would love me all the same. He helps me see the big picture."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

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