Olympic Swimming 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know About Natalie Coughlin
Natalie Coughlin is easily one of the best U.S. Olympians ever among all sports, and yet there's much more to her than being a multiple gold-medal winner.
At age 29, Coughlin is competing in her third consecutive Summer Olympics and is part of the U.S. women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay team.
She remains one of the most popular athletes on Team USA despite competing in just one event in London, and Coughlin has a unique life outside of the pool. As you'll soon find though, it is easy to get lost when looking at all she's accomplished.
Well, here we combine Coughlin the athlete and person for one interesting look at America's Golden Girl.
She's an Author
Nick Laham/Getty Images
The Golden Girl reference is directly from her book, titled: "Golden Girl: How Natalie Coughlin Fought Back, Challenged Conventional Wisdom, and Became America's Olympic Champion."
Co-authored with Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated, here's the book's premise (from BarnesandNoble.com):
The story of Natalie Coughlin's remarkable battle back from injury and burnout to be-come America's Golden Girl.
In Golden Girl, Sports Illustrated's Michael Silver tells the story of Natalie's remarkable journey back from the brink.
What's fascinating about this is that it opens another door for Coughlin whenever she retires. Perhaps she'll continue her writing later in life, which would be quite an interesting route for an athlete after competing.
She Made a "This Is Sportscenter" Commercial
For anyone who's a fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, you have to check this commercial out.
And if you're a fan of the Olympics, Natalie Coughlin, swimming, or believe in leprechauns, this "This is Sportscenter" commercial is quite appealing.
She Was an Analyst During the 2006 Winter Olympics
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
It's rare to see Olympians cross over into the other Olympic Games from which they compete.
Being one of the most decorated Summer Olympic athletes, Natalie Coughlin went to the polar opposite, the Winter Olympics, as an analyst during the Torino Games.
Natalie was hired by MSNBC to help cover the 2006 Winter Olympics as a sportscaster. She envisions moving to the broadcast booth full-time at some point, but likely not until after competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The window of opportunity just opened wider for Coughlin. With experience as an author and sportscaster, she'll remain in the spotlight for quite some time. Not to mention, it would be fun to see a Summer Olympian continue analyzing the Winter Olympics.
She Was on "Dancing with the Stars"
She may not have won, but Natalie Coughlin lasted five episodes into Season 9 of Dancing with the Stars and took 10th place in the competition.
In no way, shape or form does this compare to her success in the pool, but it wasn't surprising to see Coughlin give this event a try. After all, she was a gymnast before focusing on swimming, and her natural athleticism transitioned well to the dance floor.
Now include how competitive Coughlin is, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her give this another go after she's done in the pool.
She's a Foodie
Scott Gries/Getty Images
A healthy diet is at the core of every great athlete.
Natalie Coughlin not only eats well, but she's an impressive cook and smart money is that she could get her own show on the Food Network.
This enthusiasm for food—combined with her supermodel good looks—has garnered invitations for Coughlin to cook on the Today Show and the Rachael Ray Show.
Later in the piece Coughlin states:
I hated the dorm food so much that I couldn’t wait to get my own apartment and cook for myself...At first, I could only make crepes, but I started watching cooking shows, reading food magazines, and practicing. And, about four years ago, I really got into being conscious about what I eat, being more aware of organic foods.
With all the unhealthy food that exists, it's comforting to hear about Olympic athletes being food conscious. That type of influence can have a positive impact on younger generations and lead to increased health all around.
She's a Top 15 All-Time Olympian
Clive Rose/Getty Images
With 11 Olympic medals to her name, Natalie Coughlin is already one of the best American swimmers to slice up a pool.
Move to a more narrow and select group of athletes and Coughlin is tied at No. 14 overall among all Olympians. Much like Michael Phelps, Coughlin's success at the Summer Games has only come in the past two Olympics.
At the 2004 Games in Athens, Coughlin won five medals, two of which were gold. Four years later in Beijing she took home six more medals and solidified her legacy among the best Olympians ever.
Regardless of what happens in 2012, nothing can take away how impressive Coughlin's performance has been on the grandest of stages.
She's a Three-Time "American Swimmer of the Year"
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
Before Natalie Coughlin even competed in the Summer Olympics, she was a star in the pool.
In 2001 and 2002, she won the "American Swimmer of the Year" award, and took it home again in 2008.
Winning this three times has Coughlin tied for third in American history, and in 2002 she took home the "World Swimmer of the Year," becoming the ninth American to do so (first this century).
Most impressively, Coughlin managed to win these awards prior to the 2004 Athens Games.
So spanning 2001 through 2008, and including all of her medals from other international competitions, it's a solid argument that Coughlin was the world's best swimmer during the first decade of the 21st century.
She's Achieved Multiple "Firsts" in the Olympics
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Whenever someone is the first to do something they are rarely, if ever, forgotten.
Natalie Coughlin has not only achieved one "first" in women's swimming, but multiple.
1. First woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back 100-meter backstroke gold medals.
2. First woman to break 59sec in the 100 backstroke.
3. First American female to win six medals in one Olympic games.
That being said, Coughlin has set herself apart in American swimming history. And no matter how much potential one particular swimmer may possess, Coughlin is the new standard of comparison.
She Was Disqualified from Her First Meet
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
At age six Coughlin began to compete in swimming, and her first meet only provided motivation.
"I remember, I think it was my first meet. I entered the 25m fly. I couldn't even get my arms out of the water and I got a DQ. I don't know what evil official would DQ a six-year-old but it was a little discouraging." (Original source, US Swimming, 20 Feb 2007)
Long story short, it's a good thing Coughlin kept at it all these years.
Just imagine if that first disqualification caused her to never go back and try competitive swimming. Everyone would have missed out on one of America's greatest Olympians and swimmers.
This can also be a lesson for people everywhere, because if Coughlin refused to quit despite getting disqualified at age six, then we can all learn to be more mentally tough.
She Has 7 Pets
Harry How/Getty Images
Pets are common, and it's no surprise that someone as unique as Natalie Coughlin has more than one.
Interestingly enough, Coughlin has two dogs paired with five chickens, as her USA Swimming profile lists. Certainly not the most common of pet combinations. However, it makes for a great conversation starter.
But wait, Coughlin's pets get better.
It's not surprising that the dogs have names (ShaRa and Dozer), but the chickens have names as well (Tara, Sookie, Lafayette, Madame and Chuck).
So to top off the intriguing combination of two dogs and five chickens, their names are fun to say. That being said, the pets themselves seem like an interesting bunch based on the names alone.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.