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Dana Vollmer unlikely to compete at swimming nationals

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Dana Vollmer, who earned a medal of every color in Rio 17 months after childbirth, said she will “most likely not” swim at the U.S. Championships in late July as she works her way back from her second pregnancy.

“I’ve taken a step back from intense pool training and have been focused on strength and retraining movement patterns that I know will improve my overall health and my strength in the water,” was posted on the seven-time Olympic medalist’s social media on Saturday.

If Vollmer misses nationals in Irvine, Calif., she can not qualify for the next two major international meets — the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in August and the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

“It’s unfortunate that next years [sic] World Championship team is selected this summer as I expect my racing to be in full swing again by then, but I am confident in my plan to be the best at 2020!” was posted on Vollmer’s social media.

Vollmer, 30, has raced in one meet since having her second child, son Ryker, on July 4. That was in Texas in January. The 2012 Olympic 100m butterfly champion considered entering meets in Mesa, Ariz., and Santa Clara, Calif., this spring but prioritized exacting her training regimen as a mother of two boys aged 3 and younger.

Come 2020, Vollmer will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic female swimmer except Dara 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, earning three silver medals at age 41 with a 2-year-old daughter.

In Vollmer’s absence, the top U.S. female butterflier has been Kelsi Dahlia, who took 100m fly bronze at the 2017 Worlds. But everyone is chasing Swede Sarah Sjöström, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder who has the four fastest times in the world this year.

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MORE: Ryan Lochte’s comeback motivated by new life, another swimmer’s goal

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My focus is on being my best at 2020. The past couple weeks have been very exciting in terms of figuring out better ways to move. I had a bad back injury fall of 2004 that had me dealing with pain through 2010. It’s been a journey seeing how my body adapted to back pain and learned to work without utilizing many major muscles that I linked with increased back pain. Now, 8 yrs later, we are still uncovering layers. Same process with my shoulders after years of swimming. I’ve taken a step back from intense pool training and have been focused on strength and retraining movement patterns that I know will improve my overall health and my strength in the water. I’ve been so thankful to be injury free in these later years of my swimming career and I get so excited learning how to better use my body and ways to apply that to my strokes! I will not be competing in Santa Clara this weekend and most likely not at Nationals. It’s unfortunate that next years World Championship team is selected this summer as I expect my racing to be in full swing again by then, but I am confident in my plan to be the best at 2020!

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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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