Dana Vollmer
AP

Dana Vollmer flies the fastest, 13 months after giving birth

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Dana Vollmer is once again the fastest U.S. woman in the 100m butterfly, less than a year after returning to training after giving birth.

Vollmer clocked 56.94 seconds to win at a USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday.

It marked the fastest 100m butterfly for any U.S. woman since Vollmer’s victory at the London 2012 Olympics. She is the only American ever to break 57 seconds.

“My fly, in a lot of ways, is better than it was then,” Vollmer told media in Mesa.

The meet continues Friday and Saturday, with finals live on NBC Sports Live Extra at 8 ET each night.

Vollmer, 28, has seen her view of the sport change since giving birth to Arlen on March 6, 2015, and coming back after a break since the 2013 World Championships.

Swimming is now “a hobby.”

“[In the past] my whole world revolved around swimming and making the Olympic team,” Vollmer said while holding Arlen, jokingly referring to him as “a 30-pound weight workout.” “Now my whole world revolves around him [Arlen] and swimming is my outlet. It’s my happy place. It’s my me-time.”

Vollmer first dipped her toes back in the pool last spring to stay in shape and to stay active with her son.

In her first meet back last July, she didn’t break one minute in two 100m butterfly swims. Those times wouldn’t have made the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

But Vollmer chipped away at meets in August, November, December and January. Finally, on Thursday, she chopped .67 off her previous comeback best in her Mesa victory.

She admitted to feeling sore and tired afterward. Arlen is, too. He’s teething.

“We never know if we’re going to get a great night’s sleep,” she said. “There’s not much that you can throw at me now that I won’t be able to handle.”

Vollmer is now the unquestioned favorite going into the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. The 100m butterfly final is June 27.

Her closest challenger is Louisville senior Kelsi Worrell, who was runner-up Thursday, .33 behind Vollmer. No other American has been within .88 of Vollmer’s 56.94 since the 2012 Olympics.

With the top two at trials making the Olympic team, it would be a shock if Vollmer isn’t headed to her third Olympics in Rio.

Olympic gold will be a tougher proposition. Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström broke Vollmer’s world record of 55.98 in the 2015 World Championships semifinals and then again in the final.

“It’s not that I have to make the Olympic team to prove anything,” Vollmer said. “It’s that I so want to be there. I love walking out for finals and looking at the pool. It was one of those moments even before this race. It’s just so pretty, staring at that still water and knowing that you can dive in and race as hard as you can.”

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Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

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For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

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Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

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Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

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