Born in 1987 and raised in Granbury, Texas, Dana Vollmer began competitive swimming early. At age 12 she was the youngest person in the Olympic Trials. She was diagnosed with a heart condition at age 14 but continued to swim, and won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. In the London Olympics in 2012, she won three gold medals and broke a world record for the 100-meter butterfly.
Early Life and Career
Dana Whitney Vollmer was born in Syracuse, New York on November 13, 1987, and her parents moved the family to Granbury, Texas, when she was a young girl. Swimming is in Vollmer's blood: Her mother was a swimmer and a coach who held records in New England, and started teaching her to swim as a baby. Her older brother, Nick, took to the pool as well, and became a teacher and swim coach as an adult.
Vollmer began competing early. At 12, she was the youngest person competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and at 13, she was the youngest member of the 2001 Goodwill Games team. She swam in her first Olympics at Athens in 2004, while she was still in high school. There, Vollmer and her relay team won a gold medal and set a world record in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle event.
After graduating from high school, Vollmer attended the University of Florida for a year before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in Anthropology and worked with swimming coach Teri McKeever.
Vollmer didn't qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and was devastated. In addition to injuries—she was suffering from back and shoulder injuries at the time, as well as a then-undiagnosed stomach problem—she cited the mental pressure she put on herself and the stress of being seen as a beloved up-and-comer. Because she was deeply disappointed and no longer interested in racing, her U.S. coach connected with a coach in Australia and arranged for Vollmer to go to Fiji to swim with dolphins and teach swimming to kids. She rediscovered her love of the sport there, and returned to training.
At the 2012 Olympics in London, Vollmer won a gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly, and broke the world record with a time of 55.98 seconds. She was the first woman to beat 56 seconds in the 100-meter event, and she did so in spite one of her swim caps—the outer cap worn to cover the strap of the goggles and reduce drag—popping off in the middle of the race. Vollmer also claimed gold medals in the 4-by-100-meter medley relay and the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay at the 2012 Olympic Games.
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