Despite her blond hair, blue eyed, light skinned exterior, Olympic Swimmer and Gold Medalist Natalie is actually ¼ Filipino and proud of it!
At the 2008 Olympics, she became the first American female athlete in modern Olympic history to win six medals in one Olympics and the first woman ever to win a 100 m backstroke gold in two consecutive Olympics.
Natalie Coughlin was also the joint captain of the US women’s swimming team together with five-time Olympian Dara Torres and four-time Olympian Amanda Beard. Coughlin won the gold medal in the 100m backstroke at those Games, becoming the first woman to retain the gold medal position in that event.
Natalie left the 2008 Beijing Olympics & the 2004 Athens Olympics as the most decorated female athlete. She’s won a medal in every single Olympic event she’s ever entered. Natalie has earned a total of 11 Olympic medals in two Olympics, the second highest in American Swimming History to the 12 medals won by Jenny Thompson achieved in four Olympics.
During the Beijing Olympics, she was invited to prepare an Asian-themed dish on the Today show. She has appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America.
If you’re a Dancing With the Stars fan, you might have caught a glimpse of Coughlin competing in season 9 with season 1 professional champion, Alec Mazo. She was eliminated on the fifth episode.
Natalie attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a BA in psychology in 2005. Coughlin had won twelve National Collegiate Athletic Association Swimmer of the Year honors in her first three years at Cal.
In the beginning of this month, Natalie heads to Nationals with the goal of retaining her position on the Olympic team and securing her spot across the pond at the London 2012 Olympics.
I have blond hair, blue eyes. My sister has black hair, brown eyes and dark skin. My mom has dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. So people are surprised when they see me with my family.
ASIANCE: You’re of Filipino and Irish heritage. Which side is Filipino?
Natalie: My mom’s side. My mom’s mom is from the Philippines?
ASIANCE: Did you ever incorporate your heritage in a daily routine?
Natalie: I do just to the extent of the food. I love halo halo and chicken adobo. I don’t speak Tagalog. I started to learn awhile back but I’m kind of lazy about it. (laughs) When we have get-togethers, it’s always my mom’s side and she’ll have the traditional Filipino food, bean dish along with whatever holiday it is. She always mixes the two.
ASIANCE: Are people surprised when they find out you are Filipina?
Natalie: I think they are. In California there are so many people who are mixed. I do meet a lot of people who are half Filipino or a quarter. I have become good at picking them out of a crowd. I can tell by their features. Sometimes if they see me with my mother or they see me with my sister they can tell. I have blond hair, blue eyes. My sister has black hair, brown eyes and dark skin. My mom has dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. So people are surprised when they see me with my family.
ASIANCE: So you just have one sister?
Natalie: Yes. She’s 3 years younger than me.
ASIANCE: Is she a swimming athlete also?
Natalie: No. She actually has a full time job. She swam until her freshman year in college and then after that she quit. She lives in the real working world. (laughs)
Natalie Coughlin breaks the world record with a time of “58.97”
ASIANCE: Did you ever visit the Philippines?
Natalie: No I haven’t. I really do want to go at some point but I haven’t had a chance just yet.
ASIANCE: Do you follow any other Asian athletes?
Natalie: Yes. Miguel Molina. He represents the Philippines. He’s a swimmer. He actually swam at Cal, so I know him. Obviously Pacquiao. My husband and I really love to watch boxing. He’s one of the best fighters in the world, so obviously we’re going to watch him.
ASIANCE: Is your husband Asian?
Natalie: He’s mostly Irish. He doesn’t know what he is actually because both of his grandparents are adopted. (laughs)
ASIANCE: Are you planning to compete in 2012?
Natalie: That is my goal right now. That is what I’m aiming for. I have Nationals in a week. That will choose the championships for next year to get to the games for this year. The main goal is definitely London 2012.
ASIANCE: What other Olympic athletes, non-Asian, do you follow?
Natalie: I really like Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor. They’re the Beach Volleyball girls. I know them personally and they’re great, great masters of their sport. They’re good people. They’ve been such a force in their sport. They’ve been so dominant. I really admire how they carry themselves. They’re confident and they’re not arrogant. They have such coupleness but yet such confidence. That’s a trait that I really admire.
ASIANCE: Who are you looking at as one of your stiff competitors?
Natalie: I don’t really know. I’ve been competing since Beijing and the faces definitely change every few years but I’ve never been one to really care about my competition. I’m just going to do my best and be the best that I can be. I don’t focus on my competitors and I never have. I find that to be distracting, so I just focus on my own training and my own competition schedule.
ASIANCE: When you compete what part gives you the most butterflies?
Natalie: I get nervous but not really that nervous. I love being an athlete and I love competing. I know how fortunate I am to have that as my job. I get nervous in the sense that I want to do well when I compete. Other than that it’s really not more than just being excited.
ASIANCE: Who’s your favorite male swimmer?
Natalie: Probably Ryan Lochte. He is a good friend of mine. He is just a lot of fun to be around. He swims several different events and has been very good in all the different events that he’s won. It’s hard to say because I know all of them so well. I’ve been a teammate of all these different swimmers at one point in time. I’m proud of them. They’re amazing athletes but I don’t look up to them as someone else would because I’ve known them for decades.
ASIANCE: What’s your favorite Asian dish?
Natalie: Definitely chicken adobo. I really like making Szechuan dumplings that I’m pretty good at. I really like lemongrass stir fry with tofu and lots of different vegetables.
ASIANCE: Who’d your favorite Iron Chef?
Natalie: It would be Mario Batali. I had the chance to meet him when I was a judge on Iron Chef. He was so nice and so fun to be around. He has such a love for cooking and you can see how passionate he was about cooking. That is something that I felt was so charming and I really like his style of cooking. He takes really humble ingredients and applies all these wonderful techniques and makes a wonderful dish out of it.
ASIANCE: When you were on Dancing with the Stars, what was the best and worst part?
Natalie: The worst part was the reality tv side of it. I don’t like playing up to the camera and being cheesy just for the sake of being cheesy. I had a difficult time with that sometimes. Other than that, I loved everything after the start. I did terribly but I had a great partner and I got along so well with him. I was so lucky to get a partner who got along so well with my personality. I just loved the glamour of it.
When I perform, I wear a cap, swimsuit and goggles. That’s it! On DWTS, you have your hair done, your makeup done, you have these great outfits and you’re performing for all these people. That was so much fun! It was such a wonderful experience.
ASIANCE: Did you have a favorite competitor?
Natalie: On my season, I got to really know Kelly Osbourne and Joanna Krupa. Mark Dacascos was awesome. There are so many great people. Those are the three people that I was really cheering for?
Last season I really enjoyed Chad Ochocino. He was just so fun to watch. He obviously didn’t have any dance experience, which is really what that show was all about. It was unfair to have people who had so much dancing experience compared to the amateurs and some of the celebrities. I thought he was a joy to watch.
ASIANCE: What do you have to say to girls who want to compete in swimming and have a career like yours?
Natalie: Take it step by step. If you’re swimming with a goal, it’s nice to have the goal of swimming at the Olympics but at that point it really means nothing. You have to make small goals along the way and make sure they are realistic goals. For example, qualify for the major age group, then get Junior Nationals. You have to take it step by step by step and have small manageable goals. That will help get you to your end goal. I think kids in general have these big, lofty goals and they don’t have a pathway to them. You have to take it a little bit at a time.
ASIANCE: If you weren’t a swimmer, what would you be doing?
Natalie: I’d probably be a physical therapist. I really like working with the body. I was really into science and anatomy while I was in school.
ASIANCE: What kind of dogs do you have are they rescues?
Natalie: Yes I have 2 dogs. They were not rescues. I have a 6 year old Border Terrier, Her name is She-Ra. I have a one year old American Bulldog named Dozer.
Watch for Natalie as NBC televises Nationals Swimming at Irvine, CA Aug 3-7, 2010; Prelims @ 9am, Finals @ 6pm