Olympic Athletes >> Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

Date of birth





172 cm


62.0 kg


backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, relays

World Records

13 (100m backstroke, 100m medley -- short course: 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 4X100m medley, 4x200m) -- long course

Olympic Games (5 medals -- 2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)

  • 100m freestyle: 3rd (2004)
  • 100m backstroke: 1st (2004)
  • 4x100m freestyle relay: 2nd (2004)
  • 4x200m freestyle relay: 1st (2004)
  • 4x100m medley relay: 2nd (2004)

World Championships (16 medals -- 5 gold, 6 silver, 4 bronze)

  • 100m freestyle : 2nd (2005)
  • 50m backstroke: 3rd (2001)
  • 100m backstroke: 1st (2001, 2007), 3rd (2005)
  • 100m butterfly: 3rd (2007)
  • 4x100m freestyle relay: 1st (2003), 2nd (2007), 3rd (2005)
  • 4x200m freestyle relay: 1st (2001, 2005, 2007)
  • 4x100m medley relay: 2nd (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007)

Pan Pacific Championships (11 medals -- 8 gold, 3 silver)

  • 100m freestyle: 1st (2002, 2006)
  • 100m backstroke: 1st (2002), 2nd (2006)
  • 100m butterfly: 1st (2002)
  • 4x100m freestyle relay: 1st (2006), 2nd (2002)
  • 4x200m freestyle relay: 1st (2002, 2006)
  • 4x100m medley relay: 1st (2006), 2nd (2002)

Other Honors

  • Swimming World's female swimmer of the year (2002)

Back in a minute

Not only was Natalie Coughlin the first woman to swim the 100-meter backstroke in under a minute, but the American also travels to Beijing as the world champion and defending Olympic champion.

The adventure began in 2001 when she won her first world championship gold in Japan, coming out on top in a wonderful duel with Romania's Diana Mocanu.

But it was the following year when she really grabbed the headlines with a stunning 100 backstroke time of 59.58 at the 2002 U.S. championships confirming her position as the world's finest at that distance.

Coughlin beat her own record five years later at the 2007 worlds as she and France's Laure Manadou struggled neck-and-neck to gold and silver in Melbourne. While Coughlin clocked 59.44 and took gold, Manadou became only the second woman to go under a minute.

She reduced the 100 backstroke mark again during a preliminary heat of a Grand Prix in Columbia, Missouri, in February, clocking 59.21 and then became the first woman to go under 59 seconds on July 1 when she stopped the clock at 58.97 at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Back in 2002, Coughlin was center stage at the Pan Pacifics where she won six medals (four gold) to tie Aussie megastar Ian Thorpe as the most decorated swimmer and also posted the second-fastest time ever in the 100 freestyle, touching home in a brilliant 53.99 seconds.

These feats won her the accolade of female swimmer of the year for 2002.

Heading into 2003 great things were hoped for at the world championships in Barcelona but on the eve of that tournament she fell victim to a bout of flu and although she bravely raced on despite a high fever, she failed to get past the heats of any individual event.

She did help the U.S. to a 4x100 freestyle gold and 4x100 medley silver although the fever-induced flop took the weight from her shoulders for Athens 2004.

Greek goddess

The Games were a bonafide success as she won five Olympic medals including gold in the 100 backstroke and 4x200 freestyle relay in which the Americans smashed the oldest swimming world record still standing.

She again showed her diversity by taking bronze in the 100 freestyle and added a pair of silvers in the 4x100 relays (freestyle and medley).

She took her foot off the gas pedal somewhat after the Games and was beneath her best at the 2005 world championships in Montreal where she only managed bronze in her preferred 100 backstroke. The 4x200 freestyle in which the U.S. dominates was her only gold at the Canadian competition.

At the 2007 worlds in Australia a rejuvenated Coughlin reclaimed her 100 backstroke crown with a world record performance, throwing down the gauntlet for China. Those Melbourne worlds also provided her with a 100 butterfly bronze and a gold and pair of silvers in the three relays.

She is a keen surfer, enjoys volleyball and is known as a good cook and fine amateur photographer, so she can retire from the competitive scene after 2008 with plenty of other activities to fill in her free time.

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