Scott Fowler

Dana Vollmer now a mom first, Olympic gold medalist swimmer second

Swim moms are everywhere at a swim meet. Without them, chaos would reign. They get the kids to the pool and do the volunteer work. They often coach the athletes, run the clock, lead the cheers, provide the shoulder to cry on and clean it all up afterward.

What they don’t do very much is compete in the meet themselves – at least not at a world-class level. That’s where Dana Vollmer is bucking the trend. At 28, Vollmer has a 14-month-old son named Arlen and four Olympic gold medals already. But after a hiatus from swimming, Vollmer has returned to the sport and is trying to make it back to the dizzying heights she achieved – all the while balancing a toddler on her hip and never knowing from one day to the next how much sleep she will get.

Still, Vollmer said her life feels more balanced and her results have been strong. “Swimming used to be how I defined myself,” Vollmer said. “But I know that my son is not even going to remember the swimming version of me. He’ll just know Mommy. And that completely took the pressure off of my racing.”

Vollmer, who lives and trains in California, won her second event Saturday at the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte in the women’s 50 butterfly after already winning the 100 butterfly Friday. She will finish this meet in Charlotte Sunday with the 100 freestyle and then fly back across the country to reunite with her husband and son. She has missed Arlen all weekend, she said.

“It’s really hard,” Vollmer said. “I’m trying to tell myself this is my weekend getaway.”

Vollmer has been a very good athlete for a very long time. She made the U.S. Olympic Trials for the first time at age 12 and made the Olympic team, too, in 2004 and 2012. After winning three gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, where she was a breakout star, she and her husband figured she would quit.

They bought a house based on the California school district they wanted their future children to be a part of; it was 45 minutes from Vollmer’s old pool at Cal-Berkeley, but who cared? She was done, right?

Turned out she wasn’t. She gained 50 pounds during her pregnancy and was put on bed rest for the last seven weeks. You might think you would have enjoyed that. Vollmer did not.

“I wasn’t allowed to do anything,” Vollmer said. “It was awful. People are like ‘Oh, that sounds like so nice. you get to lay around and watch movies all day.’ Yeah that’s cool – for about three days.”

At first, Vollmer thought maybe just getting back into shape might be enough. But she has always needed “big goals,” she said, and soon enough she was calling her old coach Teri McKeever and deciding to try a comeback. It’s not unprecedented for an Olympic swimmer to also be a mother, but it is rare.

While her first workouts about a year ago were humbling, Vollmer has returned to form and remains one of the best butterfly and freestyle swimmers in the U.S.

“Dana has superior stroke technique, an outstanding coach [in McKeever], healthy perspective and now ‘Mom Strength,’” said David Marsh, the CEO at SwimMAC Carolina and also the 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic head coach. “Hopefully Dana will start further consideration for Moms and Dads to make swimming a lifetime sport at whatever level they wish to.”

Adams wins 200 butterfly

SwimMAC Carolina’s Cammile Adams won the women’s 200 butterfly Saturday night, but she’s not finished with the event this weekend.

Adams said she was actually going to swim the race one more time Sunday night after the meet ended and pretend like it was a timed final. She is trying to duplicate the schedule at the U.S. Olympic Trials and at the Olympics themselves, when swimmers must race three times in each event.

“This is the best I’ve been all year, so I feel good,” said Adams, who moved full-time to Charlotte 15 months ago to train with SwimMAC’s Team Elite.

▪ In Adams’ race, Hannah Saiz finished third. Saiz then had trouble getting out of the pool and ended up laying down on the pool deck as medical personnel surrounded her, delaying the meet for about five minutes. She was eventually helped to a wheelchair and wheeled out of the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center, but then returned to the pool afterward and was said to be OK by several other swimmers and coaches who saw her.

▪ Ryan Lochte finished second in the men’s 100 backstroke to Arkady Vyatchanin. Lochte also finished sixth in the men’s 50 butterfly and pronounced it a “fun day” as he competed in two events that are not among his specialties.

▪ Anthony Ervin, 34, won the men’s 50 freestyle in a time of 21.98. SwimMAC’s Cullen Jones, a former Olympic gold medalist, finished fourth. “I want to be faster,” Jones said, “but I know that’s going to come when I get some rest.”