Bay Area swimmer Dana Vollmer had some pint-sized inspiration before making her comeback Tuesday.
The Danville resident and University of California graduate gave birth to her son Arlen 17 months ago — and he was front and center before Vollmer won bronze in the women’s 100-meter butterfly.
“I have key words that I write on my foot and last night I wrote Arlen’s name, and so it was the last thing I saw … when I took my mark,” said the 28-year-old, who admitted to feeling “emotional.”
Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström set a world record at 55.48 seconds and was followed by Canada’s Penny Oleksiak.
“I just wanted him to be proud,” said Vollmer, who also took home the silver in the women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
Speaking to NBC Bay Area's Jessica Aguirre before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Vollmer said she wanted to prove that she could be both a great athlete and a great mother.
And that’s exactly what she did.
“Becoming a mom changes your passions, but it also doesn’t have to be one or the other … You can figure out the balance that works for your family,” Vollmer said.
Vollmer, who often uses the #mommaonamission hashtag on Twitter, said a family and motherhood don’t have to keep athletes from being on top of their game.
“There’s so much in that bronze medal that just made me so honored and so proud of myself, of my family,” Vollmer said.
Tuesday’s finish put the three-time Olympian two steps lower on the podium than the 2012 London games, but the win was good enough to satisfy the fierce competitor in her, she said.
“I don’t like to get beat and Sara pretty much kicked my butt,” Vollmer said. “I fought like mad to get my hand on the wall and I couldn’t be more proud of that.”
Although Arlen and Vollmer’s husband Andy Grant stayed in the Bay Area, the trio FaceTimed before Tuesday’s race, motivating the swimmer.
“He likes to throw things,” Vollmer said, so Arlen “can touch [the medals], but may be not hand them off to him quite yet.”
Watch Jessica Aguirre's report from Rio on nbcolympics.com.