Listening is all in timing

August 1, 2012

Sometimes the best thing to do in certain situations is to not listen.

Had Dana Vollmer listened to the critics four years ago in Omaha, who knows what the former Granbury High swimmer would be doing today?

It’s a pretty good bet she wouldn’t be in London celebrating her accomplishment of winning a gold medal at this year’s Olympics.

But that’s where she is — and she’s doing so knowing that no one has ever swum a 100-meter butterfly faster than she did Sunday. Her time of 55.98 seconds makes her the only woman ever to break the 56-second barrier.

Not bad for someone who just four years ago thought her swimming career might be finished. Sure, she had accomplished more at age 20 than most people do in a lifetime, including winning an Olympic gold medal as part of a relay in 2004.

But as she stood in the interview area near the pool in Omaha, fighting back tears, there was no denying she was as low as she’s ever been in her career. At that moment she was no longer an Olympic-caliber swimmer, no longer among that tiny group of individuals who can do something better than anyone else on the face of the earth.

She watched as her friends prepared for and then left to compete in Beijing. Perhaps the greatest irony was the medical insurance she so needed because she was always injured and in poor health was on the verge of being taken away.

She wasn’t on the U.S. Team. She had lost her job.

So she did what a lot of folks do when they find themselves unemployed. She escaped for a while to collect herself, to decide which direction her life would take.

She went to Fiji and helped famous Australian coach Milt Nelms teach youngsters how to swim. No pressure, just time in the ocean with youths who wanted nothing more than to learn how to swim and enjoy the water.

As a result, she learned to enjoy the water again herself. She learned that winning means very little if she’s not having a good time participating.

She also reconnected herself with her favorite event, the 100 butterfly, and she has been unstoppable. She’s won eight consecutive competitions dating to over a year ago.

“The 100 fly has always been my favorite,” she said. “It was just waiting for me to get healthy.

“Now I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. I have no injuries. I finally just get to be able to train and push myself without fear of hurting myself.”

She’s healthy in body and mind. She made some critical adjustments in her workouts and diet for the physical improvements, but the greatest adjustment was in her mental state.

“I think it took missing the team in 2008 for me to get where I am today,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have gone about as many changes — and I did need to make some changes.”

One hundred meters in 55.98 seconds. To put into perspective how fast that is, consider that by the time you were halfway finished reading this column, Vollmer had started and concluded her race.

That’s faster than one of those disclaimers you hear at the end of some commercial advertising the latest product that sounds too good to be true.

And Vollmer might be thinking her life at the moment is too good to be true.

But it is true, and if a little voice inside her is saying enjoy it to the maximum extent, this time she should listen.

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Category: Sports Archived