Natalie Coughlin Makes Comeback With ISL For ‘Next Generation’ (VIDEO)

Natalie Coughlin stands behind the blocks before her first race in her return to swimming. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Natalie Coughlin wasn’t quite sure what to expect when she got behind the blocks.

She was a little intimidated being back in the competitive pool for the first time since 2016.

Yes, even 12-time Olympic medalists can get nervous in a new situation — especially after being away from competitive swimming for so long.

“In the technical meeting I started to get a little nervous, because I was looking around and everyone is in Olympic training, and I have barely swum, so it was a little intimidating,” Coughlin said. “The entire day was something I was looking forward to. I was looking forward to racing. I kept waiting for the nerves to hit but they never really hit, which was good.”

Instead, everything came rushing back when she got behind the blocks for the first International Swimming League meet in Indianapolis — the memories, the competitive spirit and desire to race.

Coughlin competed in the 50-meter back, going 27.69 to finish seventh.

“I had my pre-race dialed in for so long, I thought it would be weird, but it was like riding a bike,” she said.



Coughlin wasn’t sure what to expect out of herself, not just because of the layoff and having a baby, but the fact that short-course meters is such a rare format for U.S. swimmers.

“My expectation was to beat the entry time standard, which I actually really didn’t know because I haven’t raced short-course meters much. A couple people said 27.6 was good, but they might just be stroking my ego, I don’t know,” Natalie Coughlin said. “It was really fun.”

Coughlin wasn’t sure she was ready to be back at that level, but she wanted to be part of it for the good of the sport.

“For me, all I wanted to do was get back into shape after having a baby, and be a part of this for the next generation,” she said. “I think this is really exciting for the next generation of swimmers, which is one of the main reasons I decided to do this.”


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The next generation of swimmers was thrilled to have a legend like Natalie Coughlin part of this historic meet in the sport.

“It was awesome. Natalie and I were on the same flight from San Francisco,” Katie Ledecky said. “It was great to see her back in the water. It is just amazing what she has done for the sport. It is so awesome that she is here, given how much of an impact she has had on the sport. It is really cool to have someone as iconic as her here to celebrate this turning point.”

But Coughlin realizes how pivotal the ISL could be for the future of swimming.

“When I was talking with my DC Trident teammates, it is hard when you are training for the Olympic games and are coming off the world championships, it is hard to see how special this is. I wanted them to understand how fun this is,” she said. “It is obvious there is a desire for more swimming and events like this. As these weeks go on, it is going to get bigger. It is about getting our foot in the door and showing there is a market for this. I think it is going to take off.”


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Kyle Cowan
Kyle Cowan
4 years ago

Gambling is going to take this to a whole new level.

Jerry Whitfield
4 years ago

Natalie, you are the best in so many ways.

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