Arguably one of the best swimmers who has ever competed for Team USA, Natalie Coughlin collected a remarkable 12 medals over the course of three Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012).
Coughlin was hoping to qualify for the Sydney 2000 Games, but a shoulder injury changed her plans. It also served as inspiration to swim even faster.
Coughlin made her Olympic debut at Athens 2004, collecting five medals, including two gold. At Beijing 2008, she became the first U.S. woman to win six medals at a single Olympic Games. In Beijing, she also became the first American woman to win two consecutive gold medals in the 100-meter backstroke. Coughlin set the world record in the 100-meter backstroke five times, the first in 2002, where she broke the one-minute barrier in the event.
At her final Games in London, she competed in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay for the U.S., helping lead the Americans to bronze.
Coughlin’s 12 Olympic medals ties her with fellow swimming greats Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most Olympic medals by a U.S. female athlete. Additionally, Coughlin medaled in all 12 Olympic events she entered, a feat she shares with Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi.
Coughlin competed at the University of California, Berkeley where she went a remarkable 61-0 in collegiate races, and earned 12 NCAA titles and three NCAA Swimmer of the Year honors. She broke three world records, seven American records and three NCAA records during her time at Berkeley.
Her success internationally was just as impressive as her time in the Olympics. Coughlin made her international swimming debut at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships at the age of 17 years old. Two years later she competed in the world championships where she won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and bronze in the 50-meter backstroke. Over the course of her career, she would go on to win 60 medals at major international championships: 25 gold, 22 silver and 13 bronze.
Coughlin’s last major race came at the 2013 World Championships where she won gold as part of the U.S. 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Outside of the pool, the three-time Olympian has served as an Olympic analyst for MSNBC, appeared on season 9 of Dancing with the Stars, and has a passion for cooking. She is the 10th female Olympic swimmer to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame.