Published on Jul 30, 2012
LONDON -- There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Dana Vollmer would win the gold medal Sunday night. She knew it. Her coach knew it. Her competitors knew it.
The only question was whether the world record would come with it.
"I thought there was a world record there, but I was kind of like every swimming geek, watching the yellow line (on television)," said Teri McKeever, Vollmer's coach at Cal as well as the U.S. women's swim coach.
Everyone else at the Aquatics Centre knew before Vollmer did that she had become the first female 100-meter butterflier to break 56 seconds.
"I didn't know, honestly, with how my finish was," Vollmer said. "I knew I was in the lead, but I didn't know if I had gotten the world record like I wanted. It takes me a little bit to be able to see the clock, to get my goggles unfogged."
The smile on her face told the story: She got the icing on her cake.
The Granbury, Texas, native won in 55.98, breaking the old mark of 56.06 set by Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom in 2009. It was only the second world record achieved by a female swimmer since the hi-tech suits were banned in 2010. (A third world record fell later Sunday night.)
It is a time she has sought since the U.S. Olympic trials last month, and three times she has flirted with a sub-56-second time since stating her goal publicly. Vollmer was on world-record pace halfway through both of her prelim swims Saturday, only to come up just short.
"The last big goal time I set for myself was breaking 50 seconds in short course, and for years I tried to get it, and I never did," Vollmer said. "So I didn't know if, in saying the time, it was going to make something I never seemed to get. That made it part of the excitement of touching the wall and realizing that I had."
Vollmer, 24, now has put 2008 behind her. She was asked only one question about four years ago when she had failed to make the Olympic team, finishing fifth in her specialty at the U.S. trials.
"When I walked out of the trials in 2008, I didn't know if I would rediscover my love of the sport," Vollmer said. "Throughout my career, I'd just had so many injuries. It took not making it in 2008 to make me realize I can do this a different way, and I need to change not only my mental approach, but what I'm doing for training."
In the past four years, Vollmer has gotten her back and her left shoulder healed, eliminated gluten and eggs from her diet, gotten married, added ocean swimming to her training and found a way to deal with meet stress. She is a different person in a different place, which is why she was on the top step of the podium, listening to the national anthem played just for her Sunday night.
"She's learned how to take whatever life's giving her and know she can deal with it," McKeever said. "What a great gift that is.
"You don't do something like this in the last week; you do it in a process. It's been a journey, and she's really grown a lot."
All Sunday did, really, was validate Vollmer as the best in the world in her event. She has not lost a 100-meter fly final since before the world championships last summer, and now she has an individual Olympic gold medal, her first, and a world record.
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