Dana Vollmer didn’t even qualify for the last Summer Olympics in Beijing and now she’s the queen of the London Games. Finishing under 56 seconds, she broke the world record in the women’s 100-meter butterfly set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom (in a since-banned high-tech bodysuit) at the 2009 world championships. Her win also gave the U.S. women’s swim team its first gold medal of 2012.
“I was just thinking about all the work so many people around me have put in, and the belief that everyone had in me,” Vollmer said after her gold-winning performance. “There have been multiple moments in my career where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep going.”
In addition to overcoming injuries, health problems, and doubts about ever competing again, Vollmer, who competed for the first time as a 16-year-old in 2004’s Athens Games, faced a potential setback in the water when her outer cap popped off. Instead of stressing about it, she told Andrea Kremer that the incident distracted her from her pain.
The golden-haired beauty flashed a huge smile when she realized she struck gold. Even while rocking a swim cap (which she pulls off better than anyone else), she was studly through and through.
China’s Wu Minxia (along with partner He Zi) won gold in three-meter synchronized diving. With five medals under her belt, Minxia is only one shy of countrywoman Guo Jingjing’s record. Aside from dominating the event, she epitomized grace while doing it: Her impeccable coordination and dancer-like extension made her resemble a ballerina dancing in mid-air.