Training for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games + Pursuing Design

by: Dana Vollmer-Grant, Assoc. AIA, WELL AP, CBSM
As I head into my 6th four-year cycle leading up to an Olympic year my perspective and life experiences have changed dramatically with every cycle. A decent part of this shift is just life, growing up, realizing what’s important, and what works for me personally.

There were drastic perspective changes that came with each cycle: 2004 I made my first Olympics and then entered college, 2008 I missed making the Olympic team and graduated from college, 2012 I had the best possible outcome in my sport and then decided to continue swimming, and in 2016 I competed while having a newborn child to raise. The 2020 Olympic cycle will also have major changes including having my second child, juggling the demands of two children, and beginning a design career that I’ve always dreamed of having.

Veterans Memorial Senior Center + YMCA of Silicon Valley, Redwood City, California

I’ve learned over the course of my swimming career that change is good! It keeps things fresh, keeps shifting how I view my body and movement, and keeps me feeling like I’m moving forward in life. I’ve also learned that feeling nervous is a good thing! It’s the emotion that means we are excited and have high expectations of ourselves. With that, I’ve learned strategies over the years to keep myself focused to help me achieve high athletic performance.

Balance is key! It’s the balance between athletic ambitions, family, and future life pursuits. Luckily for me my athletic ambitions and life pursuits have now merged and I couldn’t be more excited. I had dreamed that after my swimming career I would pursue a career in architecture: in what area, I hadn’t decided. I now am collaborating with some of the best architects designing world-class swimming facilities as an aquatics and sports programming specialist for ELS. I have been engaged with two recent wins and one pursuit; the Redwood City Veterans Memorial/Silicon Valley YMCA, the Cañada College Center for Wellness, Aquatics and Kinesiology and the College of Marin’s proposed Miwok Center for Wellness, Recreation, Aquatics and Kinesiology, respectively.

College of Marin Miwok Center, Novato, California

This combination is two-fold. On one hand, my 25 years of swimming experience in hundreds of pools around the world gives unique perspective in programming and designing those facilities. On the other hand, a new focus in swim facility design gives new excitement to my travels and competition. Now when I am on the pool deck my view has shifted. There are many aspects of a competition and a facility that enables the most elite performance:

  1. Parking
  2. Spectator and athlete seating
  3. Locker room and access design
  4. Space for coaches and officials
  5. Air quality and temperature control
  6. Warm-up/competition pool layout
  7. Nearby accommodations and dining

These are a few of the many elements that get planned in to the design of an amazing swim facility. Now, as I prepare myself to represent the United States on the Olympic stage for the 4th time, I will travel to the world’s swim facilities with new eyes.