Olympics Swimming 2012: Natalie Coughlin's Last Chance Comes Early in Schedule

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIJuly 25, 2012

United States swimmer Natalie Coughlin has a chance to tie Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most medals by an American woman in Olympic history.

Fans will not have to wait long to see Coughlin take her shot at the record books, as both the prelims and the finals for the Women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay take place on the July 28, just one day after the event beings.

The qualification race is at 7:16 a.m. ET and the finals will start at 3:50 p.m. ET. The schedule for all the events in London can be found here, courtesy of NBCOlympics.com.

Coughlin finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle race at the USA Olympic trials in June, and if she finished any lower, she would have failed to qualify for her third trip to the games.

At the trials, the 29-year-old was challenged by a new wave of younger American swimmers, highlighted by Missy Franklin. The 4x100-meter freestyle relay was the only event for which she was able to qualify. 

Along with Coughlin and Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt, and Amanda Weir make up the six athletes eligible to compete in the event.

Coughlin was a star at both the 2004 Athens games and this past Olympics in Beijing. 

She won two gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes in 2004. She followed up that performance in 2008 by becoming the first American female to win six medals. She took one gold, two silvers and three bronze medals.

Coughlin is an incredible athlete with all the hardware to match her reputation. At her age, she is not the same swimmer she used to be, but she certainly has enough left in the tank for one more race. 

These will be her last Olympics and she will be hoping to end her career in style. Getting her record-tying 12th medal will ensure that this happens.

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