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.
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.”