May 15, 2012

Rededicated Dana Vollmer building momentum for Olympics

Swimmer driven in her quest for an individual medal.

DALLAS -- Swimmer Dana Vollmer has gotten into woodworking as a hobby. She has built a desk and a spice cabinet and is working on rebuilding a piano at her home in Richmond, Calif.

Vollmer, a newlywed, asked her husband, Andy Grant, for help. But Grant, a computer security consultant, wanted to see her plans and her measurements.

"He is very analytical," Vollmer said on the final day of the Team USA Media Summit. "He wanted to know where I was going. I just kind of pick things up, and my project kind of shapes itself. I like just being able to kind of go with the flow. It's funny how that's kind of how I approach swimming also. I'm not going to have a set plan. It's like I'm going to work with things as they come."

The Granbury product is in a different place than four years ago. She is injury-free, having gotten her back and her left shoulder healed. Her stomach is settled, having eliminated gluten and eggs from her diet. Her social status has changed, having been married Aug. 20. Her fear of failure has disappeared.

"I like to use the word balance. She's so balanced," said her mother, Cathy Vollmer. "Before she was married, there was such a focus on swimming. They train so many hours, and everything is about the swimming. She just felt so much pressure in '08. We didn't realize it at the time, but she said it was really that she had put so much pressure on herself and was so worried about who she was going to disappoint. Now, she's just so happy. It's like, 'I want to go in there, and I want to do my best, but if it doesn't work out, then, I'm still going to be happy.' ... She's got everything she wants right now."

Well, everything, that is, except an individual Olympic medal.

Vollmer will compete in the 100 fly, 100 free and 200 free at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which begin June 25 in Omaha, Neb. She also is qualified for the 200 fly but said it is "doubtful" she will swim that race.

She also is expected to be on two relays, including the 4x100m free relay, at the London Olympics.

Vollmer still was a high school student, only 16, when she won an Olympic gold medal in the 4x200m free relay with Natalie Coughlin, Kaitlin Sandeno and Carly Piper at the Athens Games in 2004. The medal, which she only recently retrieved from her parents' home, is well worn, the lanyard dirty.

"I love taking it to clinics," Vollmer said. "It might be worn, but it's worn from inspiring kids. I'm OK with them wearing it and touching it and being inspired by that.... I can't imagine putting it in a safety deposit box."

Vollmer failed to make the U.S. team in 2008, barely missing qualifying in the 100 fly, the 100 free and the 200 free. She considered quitting before a trip to Fiji that included an open-water swim helped her rediscover love for the sport.

Four years later, Vollmer has everything she wants. Almost.

She won her first individual world title in the 100 fly last summer and now has 27 medals in major international competition. The individual Olympic medal is the only thing missing.

"I would mean that I had finally done it for myself, and that it was all on me," Vollmer said. "They couldn't say we won because of these three other girls in combination. It was my work, my effort had finally paid off."

Charean Williams


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