Gold-medalist inspires local team with visit


Young swimmers soak up her insight, advice


That’s what Olympic swimming champion Natalie Coughlin said is the life lesson she has learned from a career spent in the pool.

It was persistence that helped her go from missing the U.S. Olympic team cut in 2000 to winning five medals in Athens in 2004. She went one better in Beijing this summer with six more medals added to her collection, including a gold in the 100-meter backstroke.

Her medal haul made history as the first female U.S. swimmer to win six medals at a single Olympics.

Coughlin shared her chlorinated insights with the Rancho San Dieguito Swim Team on Dec. 10 at the Boys and Girls Club Barber-Harper branch in Solana Beach. She even brought her shiny medals to pass around for swimmers to hold and dream of earning one of their own.

“I like how she doesn’t give up,” said eighth grade swimmer Aaron Smith, who swims the butterfly. “She always does her best no matter what kind of atmosphere she’s in.”

Those ‘crazy’ Olympics

In addition to giving the swimmers tips about healthy eating, weight training and the joys of a great hamstring stretch, she talked about her time in the international spotlight.

“The Olympics are really, really crazy in every sense of the word, they’re overwhelming,” said Coughlin.

Coughlin said when she won her first gold in Beijing, for the backstroke, she cried like a “little baby” and nearly forgot the words to the National Anthem up on the podium.

Coughlin said she hasn’t been in the pool since August, taking an extended break from swimming before her training ramps up for London 2012.

Coughlin, 26, has been competing in swimming for 20 years. “It’s pretty much all I know,” she said.

After her visit, Coughlin signed autographs before swimmers jumped into the pool for practice with a little extra flutter in their kicks.

Right, young swimmers take a look at Natalie Coughlin’s gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Games. Above, Coughlin signs autographs. photos by karen billing