Bronze medalist Dana Vollmer poses on the podium at the medal ceremony for the women's 100-meter butterfly final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Aug. 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
RIO DE JANEIRO — When Dana Vollmer returned to the pool last April after having a baby, she coined her own hashtag: #MommaOnAMission.
To prove that she could be both an athlete and a mom.
After the women’s 100-meter butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Vollmer might want to change it to #MommaWithAMedal.
The 28-year-old butterflyer earned an Olympic bronze medal in the women’s 100 fly — two steps lower on the podium than her finish in the 2012 London Games.
“I’m really, really happy with that,” Vollmer said. “I touched the wall and I was like, please let it be a medal.”
She finished in 56.63, over a second behind Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström, who broke her own world record by 0.16 seconds. The Swede won in 55.48. A 16-year-old from Canada, Penny Oleksiak, finished in 56.46 to break the world junior record that she set in prelims.
It’s Vollmer’s first bronze medal and sixth Olympic medal overall. A three-time Olympian, Vollmer already has four Olympic gold medals — one from the 2004 Games and three from the London Games — and one silver medal from the women’s 4x100 freestyle last night.
Much has changed for Dana Vollmer since she won the 100 fly final in London four years ago. No longer is swimming her primary focus. Her young son, Arlen, now 17 months old, has taken center stage in her life.
But when Arlen was born in March 2015 — after two months of bedrest in her final trimester — Vollmer couldn't wait to move and workout again.
Six weeks after he was born, she showed up at the University of California, Berkeley pool with her swim bag, diaper bag, stroller, baby and nanny and swam the 100 fly in over a minute. But it only took her a few months to drop her time into the 56 range again.
Vollmer had hoped to regain her world record — admitting that it was hard to watch it fall last summer, when Sjöström swam 55.74 at 2015 world championships, then 55.64 in the 100 fly final. But the challenge was too great.
“When she made it a 55.6, I knew that that was a bit of a stretch in my 16-month comeback,” said Vollmer.
Still, Vollmer was happy with how far she came in such a short time.
“I’ve always had to set extremely lofty goals,” she said. “So to come back and say that I wanted to race Sarah Sjöström, that’s setting it at the absolute top bar. Just having each of the little steps, I felt like I really appreciated every day, not knowing if I was going to be able to get there.”
Arlen stayed home in California with dad, Andy Grant. But neither Arlen nor Andy were far from Vollmer’s mind — or her phone. She FaceTimed home before the 100 fly prelims yesterday.
“Arlen holds the phone and says Mama and he runs around with the phone,” she said with a warm smile. “He put me in his toy truck and was pushing me around the living room.”
Now he’ll have something else for his toy truck. An Olympic bronze medal.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn is in Rio covering her fourth Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.