STANFORD, Calif. -- Three years after retiring after a disappointing Beijing Olympics, Brendan Hansen is once again a champion.
Hansen won the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. nationals on Tuesday night, adding a title to a comeback summer that he hopes carries him back to the Olympics next year.
"My swim tonight made me realize I'm glad I came back last December and had not decided to start in September," Hansen said. "There are a lot of people making comebacks, but I feel like I'm actually the one coming back."
The former world record-holder won the U.S. title with a time of 1:00.08 that was eighth-fastest in the world this year. Hansen beat out Kevin Swander and Marcus Titus to win the championship he last held in 2008.
Hansen retired at age 26 with four Olympic medals after finishing fourth in his best event, the 100 breast, losing his world record and a chance at a medal.
He spent two years doing triathlons and other things he couldn't do while competing as a world-class swimmer. But earlier this year he decided to make a comeback and try to make it to the 2012 Olympics in London where he hopes to win his first individual Olympic gold medal.
"I have no doubt my best races are in front of me," he said. "I have no doubt. This sport is 90 percent neck up and that is clear for me right now. I have to respect the next 10 months and make sure I race as much as I possibly can so I'm more prepared than everyone else. The reason I never won an individual gold at those Olympics is my mental aspect at those Olympics, nothing physical."
Earlier Tuesday, a pair of swimmers just back from the world championships in Shanghai won medals at nationals. Dana Vollmer won the women's 100 butterfly, the same event she won last week at worlds.
Elizabeth Beisel won the women's 200 IM in 2:10.75, beating out Katie Hoff and Madeline Dirado. Beisel previously won gold in the 400 IM in Shanghai.
Vollmer showed few signs of fatigue just one day after arriving back in the United States from Shanghai, finishing in 57.26 seconds to edge Claire Donahue.
"It was faster than I thought I would be this morning coming off the plane," Vollmer said. "I didn't know how I'd swim. I tried to stay really hydrated on the flight. I ended up watching like four movies. I didn't really sleep."
That didn't end up hurting her. Despite trailing after 50 meters, Vollmer put together a strong close to beat Donahue. The time was slightly behind her American record of 56.47 set at worlds but was enough for the title. Donahue came in second at 58.05 and former Stanford swimmer Elaine Breeden was third at 58.60 in her old college pool.
"I wasn't quite expecting someone to beat me to the 50," Vollmer said. "But I think it was good. It got me out harder than I might have been otherwise. I've been working on my back half and trying to as strong as possible even though I just got off the plane."
It's been a comeback summer for the 23-year-old Vollmer, who won a gold medal in the 800 free relay in 2004 in Athens but then failed to make the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing in 2008 while dealing with a variety of injuries.
She responded to what she has called one of the biggest disappointments of her career by making an even bigger commitment to the sport that is paying off this summer.
Helped by a change in her diet, Vollmer won gold in the 100 fly at worlds, beating out a field that included world record-holder Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden. Vollmer also won gold in the 400 IM relay and a silver medal in the 400 free relay.
Vollmer's summer will get even more memorable later this month when she is set to marry to former Stanford swimmer Andy Grant.
In other events, Matthew McLean won the men's 400 free in 3:47.33, beating out Michael Klueh and Charlie Houchin; Ashley Steenvoorden won the women's 400 free in 4:07.63, beating out Chloe Sutton and Beisel; and Robert Margalis won the men's 400 IM in 4:15.62, beating Conor Dwyer and Williams Harris.
This event serves as a qualifier for the Pan-American Games and the junior world championships. Some of the bigger names in U.S. swimming, including Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin, passed up the opportunity to come here after competing in the world championships in Shanghai.
Ryan Lochte, coming off a breakout performance the world championships which ended Sunday, did not qualify for the finals in his only event of the day. He finished 24th in the morning preliminaries of the 100 breast at 1:02.96. Lochte won five gold medals and a bronze at worlds in Shanghai and also set the first world record since high-tech bodysuits were banned 19 months ago to win the male athlete of the meet.