Coughlin is one of three American women to win five swimming medals
during one Olympics. She won two gold, two silver and a bronze at the
Athens Games in 2004. And as VOA's Steve Schy reports, Coughlin has
high expectations for her second Olympics.
At the 2004 Athens
Olympics, 21-year-old Natalie Coughlin won gold in the 100-meter
backstroke and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, silvers in the 4x100
freestyle and medley relays and a bronze medal in the 100-meter
Coughlin was the first woman to break the one minute
mark in the 100-meter backstroke. But at the recent U.S. Olympic
trials, the now 25-year-old Coughlin broke the 59-second mark with a
time of 58.97 seconds. Natalie credits some changes in her training
"I feel like I have gained a lot of momentum over the
past few years, but I think that is attributed to the technique stuff I
have been working on in the pool," said Natalie Coughlin. "A lot of
times when you make technical changes in your swimming, the benefits do
not really come right away. They are finally starting to show
themselves in the forms of faster times and personal bests."
Coughlin's path to Olympic gold and world records started in her
family's backyard pool when she was an infant in California. Her
parents enrolled her in swim classes at the age of 10 months and as she
grew, her potential became obvious. At 15 she became the first swimmer
to qualify for the Summer Nationals in all 14 events.
teenaged prodigy suffered a torn labrum muscle in her shoulder in 1999
and missed making the 2000 Olympic squad. Coughlin's unorthodox
rehabilitation plan included everything from running, weightlifting and
cycling, to yoga and kickboxing.
She swam for the University of
California-Berkeley and was the NCAA Swimmer of the Year in 2001, 2002,
and 2003 before graduating and becoming an Olympian in 2004.
a break from tradition at the Beijing Olympics, swimming finals will be
held in the morning. While some swimmers have expressed concern,
Natalie Coughlin told VOA Sports she does not think it will make a
"I really do not think it is that big of a deal
because it is the Olympic Games, and I think people will swim fast in
finals and in prelims [preliminary heats] and in semis [semifinals] no
matter what time it is," she said.
Coughlin says she is not worried about getting enough sleep before the finals.
sleep like a baby." said Coughlin. "At meets it is amazing. If I was
allowed to sleep 20 hours a day I would. I sleep every second I can
and usually I take a nap before the finals, like a two to three-hour
nap. So this will be nice. I will have an eight or nine-hour nap
before the finals."
Swimming performances all over the world
have been remarkable this year. Until 2008, the most records ever
broken in a single year was 15 in 2000. But more than 50 world records
have fallen this year, with many of the swimmers wearing the new Speedo
LZR (laser) Racer swimsuit.
It is a suit that Italy's swim
team coach (Alberto Castagnetti) likens to "technological doping."
While the suit has been approved by swimming's world governing body
(FINA), critics say the LZR illegally aids flotation. But Coughlin
says the controversy over the LZR swimsuit has been blown out of
"We have no engine other than our legs and our arms
and there is our body propelling us through the water," she said. "The
only thing the suit does is it reduces drag and it has some compression
through the legs. The swimmers are the propelling speed and you can
not take a person off the street and put them in a LZR [laser] Racer
and all of a sudden they are an Olympic athlete."
expected to contend in as many as six events in Beijing. Coughlin's
schedule is flexible, and so is her career. Right now she is hoping to
compete at the Olympics again in 2012. But that could change.
2004, did I plan on swimming in 2012? No," said Natalie Coughlin. "But
a couple years ago I realized that I am not going to be done in two
years. I mean, maybe I will be around in 2016. I doubt it, but I do
not see myself being done in the next six months."
No matter how
long Coughlin continues her career, she is certain to produce more
memorable moments in the pool - starting at the Beijing Olympics in