RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL-- Dana Vollmer didn’t set the world record Sunday night. She didn’t even successfully defend her gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly.
But Vollmer didn’t leave the Olympic Aquatics Stadium disappointed.
She also didn’t leave without more hardware. The 28-year-old proudly wore the bronze medal around her neck after swimming a time of 56.63 seconds. Only 17 months after giving birth to Arlen Jackson Grant and 15 months after resuming her career, it felt more like gold.
“It does, like a personal gold for me,” Vollmer said. “Yeah, I didn’t know if I was going to get here or not. I just wanted to leave being extremely proud of my race.”
With Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps also swimming finals — Ledecky set a world record in the 400 freestyle and Phelps won his first gold of this Olympics in the 4x100 free — Vollmer had no chance of being the story of the night as she was four years ago. Only a handful of reporters even interviewed Vollmer after her race.
She didn’t seem to notice or care.
The bronze medal was more than most people expected from Vollmer, and maybe it’s more than she expected from herself. Before her race, Vollmer tweeted, “The final of the 100m butterfly is tonight!! No matter what — I’m so proud of this journey! #mommaonamission”
It read like a swimmer who had doubts about how the race would turn out. But Vollmer’s best proved good enough.
“I’m really, really happy with that,” said Vollmer, the Granbury, Texas native who now lives and trains in northern California. “I touched the wall, and I was just like, ‘Please let it be a medal.’ All I wanted was to dive in and felt like I gave it everything I had, and no matter what that outcome was, I was going to be proud of that.”
Vollmer owned the event in 2012, dominating the run-up to the Olympics and then setting the world record at 55.98 in London. But afterward Vollmer handed the keys to the kingdom to Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, retiring to start a family.
SOURCE: The News Observer
NOTE: Vollmer overcame a heart condition to compete in the Olympics. At the age of 15, already an elite swimmer, Vollmer, was taken to a local doctor after experiencing dizzy spells while training. Doctors discovered she had an abnormal heartbeat and set up a procedure to correct it. But they then discovered she had a genetic cardiac electrical disorder called long QT syndrome, which could lead at any moment to sudden cardiac arrest.
The diagnosis was sobering. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each year about 2,000 people under the age of 25 die of sudden cardiac arrest in the United States, most because of long QT syndrome and other electrical and structural defects in the heart. While sudden cardiac arrest can strike those who are sedentary, the risk is up to three times as great in competitive athletes.
Such diagnoses have derailed the ambitions of many young athletes. But Vollmer and her family decided against what may have been a career-ending decision to implant a defibrillator in her heart, and instead chose — with the approval of her doctors — to allow her to continue training as long as an automated external defibrillator was always within reach.
Her mother carted the AED to every practice and meet so Dana could focus on swimming.
SOURCE: The New York Times