Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin: 'Hold yourself accountable'

Tyler Gourley for ESPN

Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin said sports taught her how to trust herself.

Since 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin retired from swimming, she has applied the same principles that allowed her to be successful in sports to thrive in the business world. One example: when she decided to co-found Gaderian Wines with a friend, but didn't know anything about the wine business. Even so, she produced her first vintage sale in 2017.

"I've never questioned my ability," she told espnW. "I think the confidence that I've gained from the pool and from my athleticism has really helped me in my outside ventures."

espnW spoke with Coughlin, the first woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back gold medals in 100-meter backstroke, about time management, belief in self and the importance of having a positive mindset.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length.

Wake-up call


I had a major injury when I was 16 -- I tore my labrum in my shoulder. And you know as a swimmer, you really need your shoulders, so that was a wake-up call that you need a plan when swimming will not be there. And it can be taken away in 10 years or it can be taken away tomorrow. In athletics, you really don't know. For me, it was always making sure I had a good education, so that's one of the main reasons why I chose to go to the University of California, Berkeley for my undergrad degree because I knew that was a fantastic education and that it would open up a lot of doors for me beyond the pool.

Best practices


Trust in the process and have faith. Hold yourself accountable. Work hard. Get organized. Hustle. Learn how to take charge of your schedule. And keep in mind that it can all be taken away in a blink of an eye.

The appropriate mentality


When you have a challenge, if you have the right attitude and the right approach to that challenge it could be such a valuable lesson. You can always ask yourself, "What can I learn in this situation that will make me better in the future? What can I learn from this situation that will strengthen me in the future?"

If you are willing to have that approach and attitude every single one of your failures will be a blessing.

What being an Olympian taught her


To trust in myself and my own abilities.

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