Natalie Coughlin: 11-Time Medalist Won't Waste Her Last Olympic Opportunity

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Natalie Coughlin: 11-Time Medalist Won't Waste Her Last Olympic Opportunity
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

American swimmer Natalie Coughlin has one last opportunity to make history at the 2012 London Olympics.

Coughlin needs just one medal to pull even with Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson for the most by an American woman in Olympic history, but at 29 years old, her upcoming chance will likely be her last.

Unfortunately, she will be participating in just one event after falling victim to a changing of the guard, failing to qualify for anything but the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

The 29-year-old star finished in sixth place at qualifying, the worst finish she could afford in her quest to round out a stellar career in impressive fashion.

Among others who qualified were newcomer Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old who is looking to dominate the competition in London, Lia Neal, Jessica Hardy, Allison Schmitt and Amanda Weir (via USAswimming.org).

Anything but a medal at the end of this storybook career would be a disappointment for one of the greatest American female swimmers of all time.

Coughlin began her Olympic career in 2004 in Athens by winning the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke, gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, silver medals in the 4x100-meter freestyle and 4x100-meter medley relay and a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle.

Not to be outdone, she bettered her Athens performance in 2008 in Beijing.

She won six gold medals in the Summer Games. Coughlin grabbed the gold in the 100-meter backstroke, silver in the 4x100-meter freestyle and medley relays and bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter freestyle.

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There are only a select group of people that can boast about winning double-digit medals in Olympic competition, and Coughlin is one of them. They came when she was in the prime of her career, a stage that she is no longer in the midst of.

Fortunately for Coughlin, she will be teamed with some of the best swimmers in the world and you can bet she won't waste her final trip to the Olympics.

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