Saturday, June 21, 2008


It's really rare for me to have open estimation for a sports figure. They have to do a lot more than physical feats to get my admiration as a human being. Olympians are most likely get my attention, and few more than Natalie Coughlin, who is remarkably mature, intelligent, and generous to others, as well as winning medals like she's jotting down notes on a pad.

I am IN AWE of this woman's shoulders, too. I have to admit it.

So I was very happy to read today at Associated Content that she is once again favored for gold at Beijing:

"Three years after her sterling performance at the Olympics in Athens, Natalie Coughlin's competitive fire is still burning. The golden girl of American swimming has been rounding into shape rather nicely with both wins and world records at the 2007 FINA World Cup. Natalie, who was named US Today's "Olympic Athlete of the Week" after a three gold medal performance at the first leg of the World Cup in Durban South Africa, collected a world record in the 100 meters backstroke (short course) in the second leg of the Cup. Coughlin who took home 2 gold medals and a total of 5 medals, from the Athens Games, won the 100 Fly, 100 Back, and 100 IM at Durban.

"A competitive swimmer since the age of six, Coughlin was winning state and national races as a young teenager. By the time she turned 20, Sports Illustrated had dubbed the prodigious swimmer "The Future of U.S. Swimming." Holding true to the titled bestowed upon her, Natalie started breaking both US and world records on her way to Athens.

"This year, Natalie, who says she is not doing any special preparation for Beijing other than "train hard," kicked off her racing season by clocking 56.60 for the 100 Fly at Durbin. The gold medal performance came despite Natalie's contention that after months off from competitive racing, that she "felt a little rusty." Though she also took home the gold in the 100 IM, Coughlin does not currently have plans for adding the Medley to her already exhaustive schedule of races she competes in which included, the 50/100/200 Free, 100 Back, 100 Fly, and relays.

"Yet with the 2008 USA's National Team now comprised of the top six American times in Olympic events (taken during finals or semifinals of competition), Natalie's great opening to the swim season makes her once again a favorite for gold at Beijing. Aside from the tremendous natural talent she possess, Natalie by her own account, is at her best in international competition. Fond of international travel and new experiences, Coughlin prides herself on being able to say commonly used phrases in eight different language, including Mandarin, which should make her experience in Beijing a bit more pleasant. Despite her recent success, Natalie has pointed to both the Chinese and the Australia as two of the teams to watch out for at the Olympics. Though regardless of competition, look for Natalie Coughlin to do well at the next Olympics, especially in the backstroke and the shorter free style events, and pencil in America's golden girl of the pool for a few more medals."

(Natalie Coughlin doing the backstroke, 25 June 2006, Santa Clara, CA, photo by Donald Miralle)

All the press adulation will center on fifth-grader-mentality Michael Phelps, I'm sure. The men get all the attention, regardless of actual wins. Remember how American speed skater Bonnie Blair won FIVE gold medals at Lillehammer in 1994, becoming the first woman to do so and setting all kinds of world records which still stand. But -- all the press coverage focused on Dan Jansen, who failed repeatedly, whined about it endlessly on camera, and eventually won a single gold medal, for which HE was honored with the right to carry the U.S. flag in the closing ceremony.

Olympic trials are now underway and some are being televised. Don't miss seeing Natalie if you can help it. She's the real deal.

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