Born in 1982, American swimmer Natalie Coughlin began competing at the age of 6. She later joined the Terrapin swim team and became one of the top high school swimmers in the country. Coughlin excelled at her sport at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to win gold medals at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. She is slated to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Olympic athlete Natalie Anne Coughlin Hall was born on August 23, 1982, in Vallejo, California. The daughter of a police officer and a paralegal, Coughlin started swimming competitively when she was 6 years old. She later became a member of the Terrapins swim team. One of her coaches, Ray Mitchell, later told The New Yorker that even early on, Coughlin "had one speed and that was 'all out.'"
Coughlin emerged as one of the nation's top young swimmers in high school. In 1999, however, she was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Coughlin didn't give up, though. She continued to practice, honing on her powerful kick. At the University of California Berkeley, Coughlin soon showed that she had more than fully recovered from her shoulder trouble. She won 12 NCAA titles during her time at the school ,and was named NCAA Swimmer of the Year for three consecutive years, from 2001 to 2003. On a national level, Coughlin set new record times, including the American record for the 50-meter backstroke in 2002. She also clinched five U.S. National titles that same year.
In 2004, Coughlin earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. She won gold at the Athens Olympic Games, in both the 100-meter backstroke and 800-meter freestyle relay. She and her relay teammates, Lacey Nymeyer, Kara Lynn Joyce and Dara Torres, set a new world record in their event. The following year, Coughlin graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
Four years later, Coughlin showed no signs of slowing down. She, in fact, seemed to speed up, setting a new record in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008. With a time of 58.97 seconds, Coughlin became the first woman to swim the event in under a minute. She continued to gain momentum as she competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. There, Coughlin became the first woman to win gold in the 100-meter backstroke in consecutive Olympics.
After Beijing, Coughlin spent some time focusing on other aspects of her life. She showed television viewers what she could do on land, competing on the popular show Dancing with the Stars in 2009. Coughlin got married that same year. She and her longtime boyfriend, Ethan Hall, tied the knot that April, in Napa, California. The couple's dog served as a ring bearer.
Before long, Coughlin had set her sights on her next Olympic win, and she began training for the 2012 Olympic Games. She made a strong showing at the 2011 World Championships, taking home gold in the 100-meter backstroke and silver in the 400-meter freestyle relay. Coughlin managed to earn a spot on the U.S. Swim Team, making it to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
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