At age 12, Dana Vollmer was the youngest swimmer competing at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. Four years later, she won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in the 800 free relay, but her greatest success came in the pool at the London 2012 Olympic Games. There, she won gold medals in the 800 meter freestyle relay, the 400 meter medley relay and the 100 meter butterfly. She set a world record and best time of 55.98, becoming the first woman to ever swim the event under 56 seconds. She is such a rock-star.
In 2014, Dana and her husband, Andy, announced that they were expecting their first child, a baby boy named Arlen. While Dana did have to take a break from the pool including a seven-week bedrest period during the end of the pregnancy, she whipped back in to shape more quickly than anyone expected.
Only nine months after Arlen’s arrival, Dana won her fifth national title at the AT&T Winter National Championships in December of 2015. Now, at 28 years old, Dana remains at the top of her sport and is a momma on a mission during her major comeback in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Dana was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions – and her answers are pretty incredible.
We have a lot of moms in our community whose kids play sports. We would love to know how to encourage our kids without pushing them too hard. Can you give us some advice on this?
Dana: My biggest goal for my son is to be his biggest supporter. I want to trust that his coaches will do their job to push him, and I want to be the one who encourages the passion and the love – I want to show that it takes dedication, but never be the enforcer.
Is there anything parents should NOT say to their kids before or after they play in a game?
Dana: I think the biggest thing is to ask the kids first. “How was the Game?” “Did you have fun?” “Tell me your highlights?” You should never pass your own criticisms. They could be thrilled with their performance and you don’t want to take that away from them before they even have a chance to share that excitement.
What words of wisdom do you have for budding athletes?
Dana: Everyday find something to get better at.
How do we encourage our girls to stick with sports when studies show so many girls lose confidence and quit around puberty?
Dana: Put the emphasis on teammates, bonding and life lessons more than competitiveness and winning. There’s no other place in my life where I find 24 girls with the same passion, drive and life goals as me. It’s incredibly empowering to be on a team like that.
How has becoming a mother changed you as an athlete?
Dana: It completely changed my perspective on life. I always thought the Olympic Games were the pinnacle for me, but knowing that it has gotten even better after becoming a mom has made me feel less nervous and more excited about competing because I know no matter what I am supported.
Did you train all through your pregnancy? How soon after you gave birth were you back in the pool?
Dana: I didn’t train at all through my pregnancy, but it’s something I look forward to with my second pregnancy. After giving birth I got back in the pool a few times a week, but was really just splashing around. It took a couple of months until I gained the confidence to get back with my team in the pool.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Dana: It never goes perfectly. Life is a roller coaster and it’s what you do during the lows – not during the highs – that matters.
Tell us about your partnership with Pampers?
Dana: I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Pampers. For me, they represent everything about my comeback. It isn’t solely about being an Olympic athlete, it’s all about families and who I am as a mom. It’s about doing both, and Pampers diapers allow me to do that by providing overnight protection that helps Arlen have a sound night sleep, so he – and I – can continue to achieve our dreams.