London: For someone so petite for a swimmer, 5 foot 8 inches Natalie Coughlin has made an enormous impact in the world of swimming. One of the most successful female swimmers ever with 12 medals won at three Olympics, Coughlin is Irish with one quarter Filipino descent. She is also a swimmer who has passed the test of endurance in her sport.
Better known as someone who has found recent fame with her participation in season nine of Dancing With The Stars — Michael Phelps told the media yesterday that if he were invited then he would only dance with Coughlin — and the 2012 edition of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition, Coughlin is a someone who finds herself at the crossroads of her Olympic and swimming career. A bronze medal in London can be inspiring as well as a reality check for the future for any ambitious athlete.
“I am trying to decide my future,” she said during a chat on Tuesday evening. “I love swimming so perhaps it’s going to be a ‘no’ to retirement. However, I would still love to train. I think I am going to consult my coach on what to do next.”
Couglin has treated herself to a sneak preview of what life in retirement could mean. “I took a year off after Beijing and that was nice,” she said. “But I feel I have another Olympics in me. I would like to look towards Brazil, but four years is a long time.”
Should plans for another Olympic Games not materialise then ‘’I might help my husband — coach Ethan Hall — with his swim school and give something back to swimming. The sport has opened doors for me because of my Olympic success. There will never be any shortage of opportunities.”
Consistency has been Coughlin’s legacy. Twelve Olympic medals do not come easily. Apart from her success in the pool, she is also armed with a degree in psychology from University of California, Berkeley. She claims to be fascinated by the human brain, although she specialised in ‘’mental disorders’’ for her degree. And yet the confusion of whether to walk away from it all, or take one last dive into the pool, remains uppermost in her mind. If she did continue swimming it would just be for the enjoyment of it all and if she could retain the ability to compete at a high level.
The standard of swimming according to Coughlin is in good shape. “We owe our success to other competing nations. The number of swimmers from other countries who come to the US has helped retain our status as a swimming power,” she argued. “Every time you are pushed you get better. That,’’ she said, “is a good problem to have.”