Four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Dana Vollmer arrived at the 2016 Rio Olympic games with a new perspective and motivation for an ultimate comeback in the pool.
"I have to kind of go big or go home," the mother said on her return to the Olympic arena.
Vollmer, 28, previously took home a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 4x200m freestyle relay, and three more golds at the 2012 London games in the 100m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay and 4x200m freestyle relay.
After reports emerged alleging that Vollmer's competitive swimming career had ended following her time off to give birth to her first child, son Arlen, the Team USA swimmer never officially retired.
Now, just 17 months after giving birth, Vollmer has already taken home the 4x100m freestyle relay silver and the 100m butterfly bronze medals in Rio. And Saturday night, the self titled "momma on a mission" is set to defend her 4x100m medley relay gold medal in her final event of the Olympics.
Her son was the reason she set out to do all of this, again pushing her body to limits few would fathom for a new mother.
"The hard nights when you're not sleeping through the night, and you're like oh man how did I really sign up to do this?" Vollmer said.
She adds, recalling her pre-mom life, "I thought that I knew what being sleep deprived was, or what pain was. There were times when going into the night I would sit with my husband and I would just be like bawling."
Since becoming a mother, Vollmer's priorities shifted coming into this summer's games.
"I think [swimming] changed in a lot of ways," Vollmer explained. "I’ve struggled with pressure in the past, I didn’t make the 2008 Olympic team, then coming in from having your son, and just being there, was kind of no pressure and that was really nice for me."
After taking two years off, Vollmer admits, "no one expected me to come back, no one kind of knew if I could make it back in time, so I felt like for the first time in my life, just really standing up there, because I loved it, and I because wanted to race.”
With her reaffirmed love of the sport and overwhelming love of being a new mom, Vollmer said goodbye to her husband and son and set off for competition.
"It's really hard, it's the longest I've ever been away from him," the swimmer said of Arlen. "I'm starting to get ready to go home, and get to see him, but Facetime has been amazing. I've gotten to kind of hold the phone and he now holds it and is like 'Mama' as he runs around."
Fellow U.S. swimmer and new parent, Michael Phelps, has shared some very sweet moments with his son in Rio.
"It was amazing to see Michael's moment kissing Boomer," Vollmer said. "I was so happy for him, and we're both just in such a good place, so it definitely made me miss Arlen a little bit."
Lightning Round With Dana Vollmer
Favorite Snack: Popcorn
Favorite Singer: Carrie Underwood
Favorite Movie: "The King and I”
Favorite Actor or Actress: Kate Hudson
Favorite Ice cream: Mint chip
Favorite Sport Other Than Swimming: Basketball
Favorite Athlete: Jenny Thompson
Favorite City: Dallas, Texas
Favorite Cereal: Gluten-free Chex
Pre-race Song: “Warriors" by Imagine Dragons
Favorite TV show: "Castle"
Celebrity Crush: Ashton Kutcher
Favorite Motto: "It’s kind of like, 'Do the best you can every day.'"
Best Hair: Elizabeth Beisel
Funniest Teammate: Alison Schmidt