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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Can Dana Vollmer Continue Her Olympic Run?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Dana Vollmer aims to make her third Olympic team at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Nebraska this coming week. She discusses her lifestyle, training regimen and preparations in a press conference above.

At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the University of California Berkeley swimmer won a gold medal as a member of the winning United States team in the 800m freestyle relay that set the world record in the event. Although she missed the 2008 Olympics, she came back strongly at the 2012 London Olympics. Vollmer set the world record on her way to the gold medal in the 100m butterfly and won gold medals in the 400m medley relay and the 800m freestyle relay.

But at her fifth career Olympic Trials in Omaha, Vollmer comes to the qualification meet as a young mother.

When she missed out at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the disappointment was crushing.

But she accepted an all-expense trip to compete in the 2008 Fiji Swims and participated in the 18 km relay. She cruised, she smiled, she enjoyed the beautiful tropical waters and got her batteries re-juiced in Fiji.

She experienced, as Dr. Wallace J. Nichols describes, the BLUEMiND.

Her connection with the ocean was immediate and profound: she loved the smell of the tropical air, the sound of the sea breeze and the feel of the sand between her toes; she returned home refreshed.

"We just felt like we needed to get her out of the United States and, for lack of a better way of putting it, her own pity party," recalled coach Teri McKeever of Vollmer's trip to Fiji.

"When she got to Fiji, she seemed a bit distant, but she came out of her first leg on our relay with the biggest smile in the world," said relay teammate Steven Munatones. "Then every subsequent leg, she became more and more radiant. By the time we landed on Beachcomber Island, she seemed to put her disappointments in a distant past."

"It was such an honor to swim with her and [Olympic silver medalist] Alison Wagner," said Bill Ireland, another teammate on the 18 km relay. "When you are on a boat in a tropical paradise, you can't help but have a great time. She was so relaxed and just so magnificent to watch in that marine paradise."

"I got to do an open water race for the first time, and it just really made me realize that I loved being in the water, and I loved swimming, and I had a blast doing that open-water swim," Vollmer told the media. "It made me realize that [the biggest issues were] the injuries and the training and the pressure that I was putting on myself mentally. I look back to 2008 and I wasn't excited to race and compete. I was more worried about what happened if I failed, and who did I let down, and how that would look for Teri and my hometown. I crumbled under that. I couldn't take that all on."

But those pressures and disappointments were put behind her when she returned home. The result?

Vollmer had a breakout year in 2009 and has continued to be on a roll. She soon set her first American record and won 2 medals at the world championships. She continued her streak in 2011 at the World Swimming Championships when she won 2 gold medals and a silver, and her career hit its peak at the 2012 London Olympics.

With her Olympic victories and world record that completed her comeback, her wide smile returned as she regained sight of her goals.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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