Natalie Coughlin will compete on the first day of the 2012 London Olympics and then the 29-year-old will call it quits on her impressive career.
The veteran swimmer will slip into the last 4×100-meter freestyle relay slot after qualifying in sixth place in the individual 100 on Saturday night. Coughlin had failed to qualify in the 100 backstroke and butterfly and just squeaked by for the relay qualifying position.
Under Olympic rules a team can bring up to six swimmers for the relay event and often race a different quartet of swimmers in preliminary heats at the coaches’ discretion.
Speaking about her last-ditch Olympic chance Coughlin said:
“This isn’t the meet I visualized or anticipated going into this year or even into this quadrennium, but right now I couldn’t be happier.”
The swimmers final heat will occur on July 28, the very same morning in which the Olympics open for business. The relay final will air that very same night.
Speaking about her final chance at Olympic glory Coughlin said the it is “awesome, a huge honor. And then I’ll be done, and I’ll be there to support my teammates and the rest of Team USA, and I think that will be my bigger role at this Olympics.”
Should her relay time claim a victory Natalie Coughlin will surpass swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated medal winner in U.S. women’s swimming history.
In the meantime it appears as if her hard training over the last year has paid off, had she swam just 18 hundredths of a second slower she would have finished seventh and missed the 2012 London Olympics by one spot.
In celebration of her amazing career here’s one of Natalie Couglin’s gold medal winning 100-meter butterfly performances: