Swimmer Natalie Coughlin has medaled in every single Olympic event she has ever competed in. Impressive, considering London will mark her third time at the Games.
Coughlin, 29, will compete in the 4x100 freestyle relay, having lost a spot in the 100m backstroke to Missy Franklin, 17, and Rachel Bootsma, 18.
Coughlin, who spoke to Natalie Morales on TODAY, is keenly aware of the age difference between her and her closest competitors — and is using it to her advantage. "I'll embrace my role as a leader and the relay is the first day and in that relay I will do my best and then after that I will help everyone else as much as they need and want it," said the team veteran, who won the gold twice in Athens. In Beijing, she became the first American female to win six medals in a single Olympics Games.
A relay win in London would bring her number of medals up to a dozen — tying her with swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated American female Olympian.
Coughlin is training hard for her third Olympics, working out six hours a day, six days a week at the University of California Berkeley campus near her home. The training is only different because she's older, she said, "and wiser, much wiser. I train differently just because I need to focus on recovery more…I have way more power than I ever did, you know, eight years ago."
Part of her training is perfecting technique: To avoid getting water up her nose during the backstroke, for instance, she uses her upper lip to plug her nose. "So it's not the most attractive thing ever," she told Morales. "I have a very flat, squishy nose. I think that helps." She must be doing something right, as she took home the gold in backstroke in both Athens and Beijing.
Coughlin has been busy: After Beijing, she took nearly two years off, spending the time on "Dancing with the Stars," marrying longtime boyfriend Ethan Hall and posing for Sports Illustrated wearing only body paint.
Coughlin lives on an organic farm in Berkeley with her husband, their chickens, dogs, and plenty of homegrown produce.
And though the swimming star isn't quite ready to retire, London may be the last time she competes in the Olympics. "I really have no idea what I'm gonna do — if I'm gonna swim after London or not…I'll definitely take some time off." She said that while she would love to have kids at some point, "I haven't even thought about it. I'm so busy with my dogs and my chickens; I'm sure kids are probably a lot harder than that."
Coughlin's 30th birthday lines up with another milestone celebration, as teammate Michael Phelps will be retiring. "I know Michael was saying that he wants to combine his retirement party with my 30th in Vegas," she said. "That sounds a little too big for me. But I'll definitely have a big celebration."
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