Dana Vollmer
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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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U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

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Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

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U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

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