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Should Bay Area Fave Natalie Coughlin Swim for a Record 13th Olympic Medal Saturday?

Lafayette resident and UC Berkeley grad has won 12 Olympic medals and was excluded from racing for the freestyle relay final; she could still be included in Saturday’s 400-meter medley relay.

Bay Area swimming legend Natalie Coughlin is in the midst of a balancing act that would rival that of her gymnastics compatriots.

Coughlin hopes to become the most decorated American female Olympian of all time. To do so, she needs the green light to be on the 400-meter medley relay squad Saturday at the 2012 Olympics in London. With a win in that event, Coughlin would garner her 13th medal, which would be the most ever for an American woman, breaking a three-way tie she currently shares with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres.

But Coughlin, 29, doesn’t want to lobby publicly for that spot, particularly after U.S. coach Teri McKeever, who also is also Coughlin’s personal coach and the coach at UC Berkeley, her alma mater, made the tough call to keep Coughlin off the 400 freestyle relay team for the final, even after Coughlin swam the fastest leg in the preliminary round. That squad nabbed the bronze medal, allowing Coughlin to collect her 12th medal in awkward fashion given her lack of her participation in the final.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, Coughlin said, "I could ... there are a lot of factors that play into that. We have a lot of depth and a lot of options for the medley relay. I'm not trying to force myself onto the relay."

Coughlin, who suggested last week that she is open to returning to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, stopped short of telling Lauer that she’d definitely be back for another Olympic go-round in 2016.

"My thoughts change on a daily basis," she said. "I'm going to continue to train and be fit. If I'm healthy enough to go for it, why not? My thoughts go back and forth on that."

Should Teri McKeever include Natalie Coughlin on the 400-meter medley relay race on Saturday? Let us know in the Comments below.

Belmont August 01, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Teri McKeever is the most successful women's swimming coach in the US....She has led Cal to the NCAA Division I Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. She is in a field dominated by male swimming coaches and she is the reason many swimmers choose Cal. She is an outside the box thinker, whose training methods were considered unorthodox at one point. She will make the correct decision in regards to Natalie swimming on the relay. My cousin's daughter swam at Cal and was on the 2009 and 2011 teams. Her name is Amanda Sims (Santa Rosa, CA) and she won the 100 fly in 2009 and 2011 at the NCAA championships. Amanda swam at the Olympic Trials but did not make the team. As everyone knows now, Dana Vollmer won the gold for the US in the 100 fly. Dana went to Cal as well. The US is unbelievably talented in swimming....
Rick Eymer August 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Mary Beth, Well put. It used to be Stanford would send so many swimmers to the Olympics, like Jenny Thompson, Summer Sanders, Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden. This year? There are no female swimmers from Stanford and the only male swimmers are swimming for other countries. Don't forget Cal's Jessica Hardy. We are all proud of what Natalie Coughlin has done for Cal and the country but I cannot second-guess Teri McKeever.
Michael Craig August 01, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Natalie swam the fastest leg in the prelim and is rewarded with a sideline seat? I was very surprised by the Coaches call not to have Natalie in the race. Usually coaches reward their best with opportunities. Instead this Coach went for younger but unfortunately not faster crew. If this was the corporate world the Coach would be called for discriminating because of age. Give her another chance to prove that you don't have to be a teenager to win in the Olympics. Don't force her to have to wait until 2016 to prove it can be done.
Rick Eymer August 01, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Michael, I hear you. Natalie is one of the all-time greats. She does seem to deserve a chance in a relay. She did, let's remember, earn a medal for her participation in the free relay. She helped get the team to the final. Natalie is also a versatile swimmer, which means she would be perfect for the Medley Relay. There are two things at play though. Natalie did not qualify for an individual event through the Olympic Trials and USA coach Teri McKeever was also her coach at Cal. If anyone knows Natalie, it is McKeever. Does she deserve the chance to swim in the medley relay? Absolutely. If she swam in the trials, but not the finals, she would still get a medal if the team earned a medal.

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