Natalie Coughlin Describes ‘Emotional Abuse’ on ‘Undeniable’ Show

Jul 14, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Natalie Coughlin of the United States adjusts her swim cap before the women's 100m freestyle swimming preliminaries during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Natalie Coughlin. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

By Dan D’Addona.

Natalie Coughlin, the most decorated U.S. female Olympian, will appear on “Undeniable” a sports talk show with Joe Buck on Tuesday and will discuss many topics with the sportscaster, including the issues of emotional abuse and body shaming.

Several clips of the interview were released ahead of the show’s airing on the AT&T Audience Network, most notably issues Coughlin had with coach Ray Mitchell early in her career.

Body shaming is something that has always been an issue in for a sport in which swimsuits are the uniform. It is easy for swimmers to compare their bodies with their peers, even easier when a coach or parent points out those differences.

Coughlin, now 35 and pregnant with her first child, said Mitchell did that to her and her teammates and it was a “toxic environment.”

Mitchell runs the Terrapin Swim Team.

“He saw me in many ways as validating his career,” Coughlin told Buck. “It was really tough. I was having a hard enough time as it was. He was just piling on to me just saying how I was an emotional basket case. He was really emotionally abusive and just really tore me down when I didn’t need to be torn down. … He was just straight-up abusive.

“I was so happy to get that out of my life.”

Coughlin won 12 Olympic medals during her career, tied for the most in U.S. history in any sport and the second most by a female in Olympic history. She has thee gold medals, four silver and five bronze). She became the first woman to break a minute in the 100-meter backstroke and was the second female to earn six medals in one Olympic games, which she accomplished in Beijing in 2008.


On the show, Coughlin will also discuss her time at Cal, her goal of becoming an Olympic gold medalist, her break from swimming and several other topics.

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  1. MK Mahoney

    You go girl. Its amazing you lasted as long as you did given the treatment you endured

  2. avatar

    Any other accusations by Terrapin team members? It took her this long to say anything??

    • avatar

      She didn’t just start saying it. Read Michael Silver’s book about her from 15 years ago. It is all in there.

  3. Jenn Foss Bru

    So sorry to hear this, great job for being strong & speaking out!

  4. avatar

    Her accusations are vague and don’t really fall in line with abuse . She sounds like she is hopping on the MeToo bandwagon

  5. Amy Flessert

    I’ve been dealing with some emotional abuse from my masters teammates recently. I was being compared to other swimmers, told that so so can’t come to meets because of your behavior, accusing me of things I didn’t do (accused of being kicked out of every pool with the team name on it), and accused of just being someone who is attention seeking when in all reality it is NOT up to anyone else to decide what I am thinking and feelings or deciding what my behavior is and isn’t. My sister is right said that people think they know you and what you have been through but they don’t. I’m the one in therapy not them

  6. avatar
    J Loucks

    Poor thing. Like she said: “choices have consequences”.

    Were there not other local swim clubs that would have enjoyed her talent? I can think of five.


  7. avatar
    Richard Evensen

    You are an amazing combination of grit and elan. Thank you for representing the USA with such class.

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