Former Cal swimmer Dana Vollmer ended 12 years of frustration on Tuesday when she won the women’s 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials to book her place on the team for London.
Although Vollmer won a relay gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the 24-year-old had never qualified in an individual event despite three previous attempts.
In 2000, she was just a bright-eyed 12-year-old who was not expected to qualify. Even in 2004 she was a surprise qualifier, earmarked as a future champion.
In 2008, however, the combination of a mystery illness and the weight of expectation got the better of her and she failed to qualify at all.
Now married and with her illness behind, she made amends on Tuesday, thrashing through the water like a woman possessed to win in 56.50 seconds, less than half a second outside the world record set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem at the 2009 world championships in Rome.
“I think the relief comes from ... just not wanting to mess up,” she said. “[That] was kind of where my nerves come from, not twitching on the blocks like I did in 2008.
“As soon as I was in the water I was excited and felt more in control of that race than I think any of my [previous] 100 fly swims.”
Claire Donahue, swimming from the outside lane, sliced a quarter of a second off her best time to finish second in 57.57 and qualify for her first Olympics.
Brendan Hansen, who came out of retirement for what he called “unfinished business,” qualified for his third Olympics when he won the 100 breaststroke in 59.68, just ahead of cancer survivor Eric Shanteau.
Allison Schmitt won the women’s 400 freestyle in 4:02.84 ahead of the fast-finishing Chloe Sutton after Katie Hoff and Janet Evans both failed to make the final.
Missy Franklin, the emerging star of the American women’s team, set the fastest time in the 100 backstroke semifinals in a dazzling start to the first of her five events.
Former Cal star Natalie Coughlin, who won the 100-meter backstroke at the past two Olympics, only snuck into the final in seventh.