American swimmer Natalie Coughlin is the owner of 11 Olympic medals, and is the first American female athlete to win six medals in one Olympiad.
Coughlin first competed in Athens in 2004, where, as a 22-year-old, she took home five medals, including an individual gold in the 100m backstroke and a team gold in the 4x200m freestyle. She also won silvers in the 4x100m freestyle and the 4x100m medley, as well as a bronze in the 100m freestyle.
In Beijing, she repeated as 100m backstroke champion in dramatic fashion, nosing out Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry by .23 of a second with a time of 58.96, to become the first female to win the event in consecutive Olympiads. Coventry had earlier broken Coughlin’s work mark of 58.97 in her semifinal heat by clocking a remarkable 58.77, which installed her as the favorite for the gold, while Coughlin’s best mark in the preliminary heats and the semifinals was only 59.43.
But the American saved her best for last, blocking out the pain in her legs by biting her lower lip repeatedly until it bled. Coughlin also once again took home silvers in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley, and the bronze in the 100m freestyle. Her new medals came in the 200m medley and the 4x200m freestyle, where she copped bronze medals.
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