Natalie Coughlin ‘Excited to Race’ in Return to Swimming in ISL

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Natalie Coughlin will make her return to the pool next week. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Since Natalie Coughlin walked off the pool deck at the 2016 Olympic trials, she has become a mother, written a cook book and helped develop a winery.

The 12-time Olympic medalist is always in the fast lane.

This week, that fast lane will be in the pool again as Coughlin will make her return to competitive swimming at the first International Swimming League meet in Indianapolis. The meet is Oct. 5-6.

“I think it’s exciting,” Coughlin told Swimming World. “It is really exciting for the next generation of swimmers. Hopefully it creates more racing opportunities and financial opportunities for swimmers.”

Most of the swimmers, especially the female swimmers, are ecstatic about the chance to race alongside Coughlin once more.

“You have athletes like Natalie Coughlin coming back. It gives athletes a chance to compete like other athletes get to do in other sports,” Olivia Smoliga said. “I am pumped.”

Coughlin said she is humbled by how many people have reached out to her about competing again. But she has earned that as the most decorated U.S. Olympic female athlete in history. She shares the record of 12 medals with Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson, but Coughlin won more as an individual, including two golds in the 100 back.

“It makes me feel great that people are excited to race me. That is something I am proud of. Hopefully I carried myself well (as an ambassador of the sport)” Coughlin said. “I am glad everyone is excited to see me back. It is really exciting for me.”

Of course, Coughlin admitted she was nervous about “embarrassing” herself with her times. She said it half-kidding, but it shows her competitiveness is till in tact.

But her training has been considerably different since she left the national team.

“I try and hit between 2-3K every time I hit the water. It is really specific stuff working on my backstroke kick or something else. I am training on my own 99 percent of the time. It is at my local gym, so I am right next to water aerobics or general swimmers,” Natalie Coughlin said.

“It has been fun getting back in the water. It has been challenging, especially having my daughter and all of the other commitments I have, including my winery (and book). I don’t have the time I would like. It is fun trying to balance it all.”

Coughlin said she went to Cal to do some training, just to work on her starts.

“I just got off the blocks for the first time. I stopped by Cal and worked with Dave Durden a little bit. The first few were ugly but hopefully it will be a lot better,” she said.

That is a long way from Coughlin’s response when first approached by DC Trident GM Kaitlin Sandeno about participating in the ISL.

“Kaitlin reached out to me and asked if I would be interested and I said, ‘absolutely not.’ I thought about if for a few days and thought it would be a fun way to get back into shape after having a baby. I decided I was in,” she said.

Sandeno named her one of the captains of the Trident last week.

“It is exciting to be named captain. I will be the captain for the two domestic meets that I am participating in,” she said. “I couldn’t justify going to Europe at this point, even though I want to. I am glad they recognize me as a leader. But it is an honor. I am super excited to see some friends from swimming that I haven’t swam in a while.”

Jul 17, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Natalie Coughlin of the United States adjusts her swim cap before the women's 50m freestyle final the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

Coughlin and Sandeno were Olympic teammates, including one of the most iconic moments in swimming history, shattering the final East German world record, winning gold in the 800 free relay in 2004 in Athens.

Sandeno has remained close to the sport, emceeing the Olympic trials and hosting USA Swimming’s Deck Pass Live. She is proud to be a GM in the ISL and has embraced the ISL mission of gender equality by hiring an all-female coaching staff and selecting several strong female role models on her team — including Coughlin and Katie Ledecky.

“I think it is great. It is really smart of Kaitlin the way she has made equality a priority. More than anything, it makes a very public statement,” Natalie Coughlin said. “Swimming has been very equal for many, many years, so it is great that the ISL put this in their mission statement. We knew that as swimmers. When you make a statement like that, it shows other sports where we are in swimming. I think it is smart. Our staff is comprised of these great female coaches. at the elite level, the amount of great female coaches is fewer than the men. In terms of Kaitlin building her team, she not only got a great roster in terms of great swimmers, but she got people who are good teammates and good role models. That is the x-factor that you can’t always quantify when you are putting together a team.

“Fortunately, swimming has a lot of those.”

Coughlin’s signing brought a couple of generations of leaders together. She said she always prided herself on being a good role model as well as a good swimmer.

“You are blessed as this Olympian to have all of this support from sponsors and USA Swimming and you have to give something back,” she said. “I felt it was important to be a good role model because I had great role models growing up. They were all kind to an up-and-coming swimmer. Hopefully I paid it forward.”

And that will continue in the historic first meet of the ISL.

Natalie Coughlin

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

4 comments

  1. Moshe Rubnov

    Good to have you back Natalie Coughlin

  2. Mike Mcgowan

    If anybody can do it she can. She’s tough as nails

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