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Dana Vollmer, Momma on a Mission, challenged in second comeback

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Dana Vollmer was convinced that returning from her second pregnancy to competitive swimming would be easier than after her first child.

“That’s definitely not true,” she said Thursday as she readied for a Mother’s Day weekend trip to her native Texas.

Vollmer, who made the 2016 Olympic team 15 months after giving birth to son Arlen (and earned a medal of every color with the mantra “Momma on a Mission”), decided after Rio that she would try to repeat the process. With a few tweaks.

This time, the seven-time Olympic medalist would swim through her pregnancy. Vollmer competed 26 weeks pregnant at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., in April 2017. Then she toned down her training and had son Ryker on July 4, nearly 20 months earlier in the Olympic cycle than her previous pregnancy.

This time, she returned to light workouts six days after giving birth. Vollmer, who turned 30 last year, was back swimming along with her training partners, the Cal Bears women’s team, a week after that.

Back in 2015, Vollmer also returned to the pool two weeks after having Arlen (and being on bed rest for two months), but she didn’t rejoin the training group for two months.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself that I would be able to come back faster [this time],” she said. “It’s still a long, slow journey to coming back after what your body goes through during pregnancy.”

Vollmer hoped to return to competition at winter nationals last December, but she delayed it until a meet in Austin, Texas, in January. She hasn’t competed since, partly because she and husband Andy Grant are still working out the balance of regular training and the irregularities of chasing 3-year-old and 10-month-old boys.

“You get one to sleep, then the other wakes up and keeps you up all night,” Vollmer said. “It was hard, at the beginning, to get adjusted to two kids. You never really get to have downtime.”

Vollmer’s goal is to train every morning during the week while Arlen is at preschool. Not quite there yet. Then start squeezing in afternoon sessions, something she didn’t do in 2016 and felt cost her speed in Rio. But things pop up, like two months of late nights with sick kids before the Austin meet, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Vollmer enlisted the advice of others who swam competitively as moms, something she didn’t do three years ago.

Like Dara Torres, who at 41 years old earned three silver medals at the 2008 Olympics, two years after childbirth. And Megan Jendrick, the 2000 Olympic 100m breaststroke champ who competed at the 2012 trials eight months after having son Daethan.

“All of them kind of said, once you find a routine, you can count on the fact that it’s going to change,” said Vollmer, noting of Arlen, whom she toted around regularly in 2016, “He’s 3. The last thing he wants to do is just sit while mommy is swimming.”

Come 2020, Vollmer will be 32, older than any previous U.S. Olympic female swimmer except Torres. Torres became the oldest in 2000 (when Vollmer was the youngest swimmer at trials at age 12, collecting autographs), then shattered her age record in 2008.

This summer is more key in the U.S. Olympic cycle for swimming than other sports like track and field and gymnastics. The U.S. team for the biennial world championships in 2019 will pretty much be determined at this July’s national championships. Worlds are the biggest meet between now and the Olympics, so important that Michael Phelps made sure he unretired in 2014 to keep the 2015 Worlds in play.

Vollmer is a wait-and-see on entering meets this spring and summer, including nationals.

She skipped the Mesa meet last month because she had finally found a rhythm of consistent workouts that wasn’t worth interrupting.

She’s not competing at next week’s Pro Series meet in Indianapolis. Vollmer is actually spending Mother’s Day weekend in her native Texas, with her two boys, visiting her grandmother and appearing at the EmpowHer yoga festival in Dallas.

If she does compete at nationals, Vollmer would like to get at least one prep meet in beforehand. The next Pro Series meet in Santa Clara in June, near her training base, is on her radar.

“It’s a little unfortunate that they also pick next year’s world championships this summer, because a whole ‘nother year would be amazing to be able to have that amount of training under my belt and want to make a world championships team,” Vollmer said, “but, honestly, my focus is on 2020. We’re going to take it meet-by-meet and see where we are.”

If Vollmer does make the 2020 Olympic team in her patented 100m butterfly or as part of a freestyle relay, she hopes for another change from 2016.

“I could have swam even faster in Rio,” she said. 

Vollmer said those Olympics “were incredibly hard as a mom” being away from Arlen, who stayed in the Bay Area with Grant. Even if Arlen was in Rio, Vollmer said policy and obligations would have largely kept her apart from her son. (Torres’ daughter was not with her in Beijing.)

She also lamented limited time with her personal coach and trainer, who also weren’t with her in Brazil. She voiced these concerns to Frank Busch, the longtime U.S. national team director who retired last year.

The U.S. swim team’s foundation to become the world’s best is rooted in unity. Between trials and the Olympics, the swimmers spend weeks together at training camps. Most swimmers are in their teens or early 20s. Someone like Vollmer, married with kids, is unique.

You make the team, and you still have three or four weeks to get faster,” Vollmer said. “I think that’s when I would like to see some changes made. I fully respect the team bonding and that atmosphere.

“I want to combine the two, my love of competing at an Olympic Games with the love of my family and the routine I’ve developed and worked for me.”

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2019 Vuelta a Espana TV, live stream schedule

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The Vuelta a España, the cycling season’s third and final Grand Tour, airs live for every stage between NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA the next three weeks.

NBC Sports Gold streams live, commercial-free coverage of all 21 stages via the “Cycling Pass.”

NBCSN and Olympic Channel combine for daily TV coverage of the Spanish Grand Tour.

Colombian Nairo Quintana headlines the field, eyeing his third Grand Tour title and his first since the 2016 Vuelta. Perhaps the most most accomplished rider is Movistar teammate and world road race champion Alejandro Valverde.

Steven Kruijswijk, who was third at the Tour de France, and Primož Roglič, who was third at the Giro d’Italia, are other podium contenders.

Tejay van Garderen is the most accomplished of the nine U.S. riders in the field, coming back from a crash that prematurely ended his Tour de France in July.

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Date Time (ET) Stage Platform
Sat., Aug. 24 12:35 p.m. Stage 1 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
4 p.m. Stage 1 Olympic Channel
Sun., Aug. 25 1 a.m. Stage 1 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon, Aug. 26 1 a.m. Stage 2 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Aug. 27 9 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Aug. 28 9 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Aug. 29 9 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 6 NBCSN
Fri., Aug. 30 9 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Aug. 31 9 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 1 9 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Sept. 3 9 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 4 9 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Sept. 5 9 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 6 9 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Sept. 7 9 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 8 6:35 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 9 1 a.m. Stage 15 Olympic Channel
7:05 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 11 9 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 17 NBCSN
Thurs., Sept. 12 6:05 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 13 9 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 19 NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 14 5:40 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 15 10:45 a.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Madrid Challenge – Women’s Race Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 16 1 a.m. Stage 21 NBCSN

Noah Lyles a must-see in Paris; Diamond League TV, live stream schedule

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The last time Noah Lyles raced a Diamond League 200m, he became the fourth-fastest man in history. His follow-up comes against a field of similar strength in Paris on Saturday

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live coverage from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at noon.

Lyles could look to improve on the 19.50 he ran in Lausanne on July 5, when he moved to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson. There’s reason to believe he can, given the Swiss race was into a slight headwind.

And because most of the major players from Lausanne are back for Paris. That includes Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title while Lyles was out injured.

Two more notables — Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France and Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, the third-fastest man this year — are in Saturday’s field after missing the July event.

Lyles may also be looking at Paris as a lead-up to the two biggest international meets of the year — a Diamond League final in Brussels on Sept. 6 and the world championships in Doha three weeks later.

Here are the Paris entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:17 — Women’s Discus
1:40 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:09 — Men’s High Jump
2:14 — Men’s 800m
2:24 — Women’s 100m
2:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Men’s 1500m
2:48 — Women’s 400m
2:57 — Men’s 200m
3:06 — Women’s 800m
3:29 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:50 — Men’s 110m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m. ET
All six women who have cleared 4.80 meters this season are here, topped by world leader and London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. But Suhr hasn’t won a top-level meet outside the U.S. since 2012. Watch out for Rio Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek who beat Suhr in Birmingham, Great Britain, last Sunday. And Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris at her first Diamond League in two months.

Women’s 100m — 2:24 p.m. ET
Olympic champ Elaine Thompson takes her No. 1 world ranking into her first Diamond League 100m in two and a half months. Thompson rebounded from a blemished 2018 to win June’s Jamaican Championships in 10.73 seconds, cementing herself as the world championships favorite. Three other women in this field have a personal best in the 10.8s, including 2018 U.S. champion Aleia HobbsTeahna Daniels, the surprise 2019 U.S. champ, is coming off a third-place, 11.24 finish in Birmingham against a largely unaccomplished field.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:32 p.m. ET
Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye go head-to-head for the 48th time in this event, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, who owns five combined Olympic and world titles, has a 25-22 edge and hasn’t lost to his countryman on the Diamond League level in five years. But Claye, who owns five combined Olympic and world medals (but no gold), ranks No. 1 in the world this year with his personal-best 18.14-meter mark from June 29. The winner here is likely the favorite for worlds.

Men’s 200m — 2:57 p.m. ET
Lyles has never lost to anyone in this field in senior competition. In fact, only one man has beaten him in a 200m in the last three years, countryman Michael Norman, who is focusing on the 400m this summer. Last year, Lyles made a statement by breaking 19.8 in the 200m on four separate occasions, something only Usain Bolt had previously done. Lyles is at three sub-19.8s so far this season with at least three meets left.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 3:50 p.m. ET
Grant Holloway
, the only man to break 13 seconds this year, makes his Diamond League debut after turning professional following his junior season at Florida. He takes on the second- and third-fastest men this year, including former NCAA rival Daniel Roberts, who upset Holloway at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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