Dana Vollmer finished her career as one of the most decorated swimmers in American history, but Vollmer may be remembered more for her comeback than any of the countless Olympic gold medals she won.
Vollmer had a child right in the middle of her incredible career. It was March of 2015 and the Olympic trials for the Rio Games were just over a year away. Even more unbelievable, Vollmer, who was 27 at the time, didn’t have an easy pregnancy and was bedridden for seven weeks.
Two months after her son, Arlen, was born, Vollmer was back in the pool. Her workouts started at 4:30 in the morning so she could be back home in time to relieve her husband of baby-sitting duties so he could work. Like any mother with a new baby, Vollmer got very little sleep, but she pushed her body to the limit.
“I was trying to show how strong moms are,” she told 1010wins in New York. “It wasn’t just focusing solely on the Olympics and letting my husband take care of Arlen. I was going to be the best mom I could be and be the best athlete I can be.”
It wasn’t easy transforming a world-class simmer’s body – that had just given birth – in just fifteen months, but Vollmer proved that a woman could be a new mother and train for the Olympics. There were doubters who told her it would be difficult, but Vollmer had extra motivation, her son.
When she swam at the 2016 summer U.S. Olympic trials, she told the Today show, “I missed my son so much that day I decided I would write his name on my foot. Instead of being sad that I missed him, I wanted him to be really proud of me. I wanted him to know that he empowered me to swim really well.”
Swim well, Vollmer did. She qualified for three events in the Olympics and captured three medals, including gold as part of the 4 x 100 medley relay team.
“After Arlen, there’s not much you can throw at me I can’t handle,” Vollmer told ABC News. “This has all just put me in such a happy, joyful place in life.”