USA TODAY Sports

Natalie Coughlin: Professional swimmer, amateur gorilla-watcher

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Fresh off her history-making performance in London that saw her tie Dara Torres’ and Jenny Thompson’s all-time Olympic medals total of 12 (the most for a U.S. female), Natalie Coughlin wants to keep swimming at age 30.

We caught up with Coughlin and talked about working out, her recent trip to Africa – where she proudly wore her Oakland Raiders hat in the jungle – and a whole lot more. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation:

How much swimming and training are you doing?
I’ve been lifting, running and swimming. I haven’t formally started training with the team yet, but I have been working out on my own. I’m swimming five days a week … not over 5,000 [meters a day].

When will you start competing again?
I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure out my meet schedule. But I’ll definitely be at Santa Clara [Grand Prix in early June] and World Championships Trials [in late June].

You do a lot of running. Ever think of going the Brendan Hansen route and doing triathlons?
The whole cycling thing freaks me out. Being on the road with cars … when I’m in my own car I don’t trust other drivers. If there were run-swims, I would do those.
Editor’s note: Natalie, try an aquathlon.

Did it really take you 45 hours to travel to Rwanda for your recent trip with Right to Play?
We ended up having mechanical issues in Chicago that ruined the rest of our flight. We flew from San Francisco to Chicago, then Chicago to Brussels. And originally we were supposed to fly from Brussels to Kigali [Rwanda] but because we missed that connection, and that connection only happens twice a week, we couldn’t get a flight. So we ended up having this 10-hour layover in Brussels, and then we flew Brussels to Paris, Paris to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then Entebbe, Uganda to Rwanda.

We missed the first day of only a five-day trip. The day we landed, two hours later we had a press conference. Whenever I wasn’t speaking I was dozing off in front of all these reporters. I was at the point of absolute exhaustion.

Tell us about the gorillas you saw in Rwanda.
I will admit, there were times when I accepted that I might get completely mauled by gorillas. [laughs] A toddler gorilla kicked me and ran off. The alpha silverback came to me and brushed up against me. I was trying to look at the ground, look anywhere but in his eyes.

What else stood out during the trip?
I had my big camera and I’m taking all these photos of the kids. Everywhere we went, they were so excited to see us. They were signing and dancing and including us in all the Right to Play games. The kids … would ask me to take pictures of them so they could see their photos. It was because they don’t have mirrors; they don’t know what they look like.

If you retired tomorrow, would you be satisfied?
I don’t think I can ever be satisfied with my career, but I’m extremely proud of it. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But half the reason that I’m continuing is that I still have goals for myself. That being said, if this all gets taken away from me somehow I will continually be proud of it and I’ll be OK with moving on. I love doing this, so why not?

Right to Play is an international organization dedicated to using sport and play to empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities. Read more at righttoplay.com.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues approved for new sports

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Tokyo 2020 venues for the new Olympic sports of baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

That brings the total number of Tokyo 2020 venues to 39, with the potential for more.

The venues for new sports:

Baseball/softball — Yokohama Stadium (20 miles south of Tokyo)
Karate — Nippon Budokan
Skateboarding and Sport Climbing — Aomi Urban Sports Venue
Surfing — Tsurigasaki Beach

All of the new sports do not currently have a spot on the Olympic program beyond 2020 (baseball and softball were previously on the Olympic program before being taken off after Beijing 2008).

Agenda 2020 reforms allowed Olympic host cities to propose the addition of sports for their Games only, which is what Tokyo 2020 did to get them on the program.

The Tokyo Olympic venues are split between two zones — the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone — that are separated by the Olympic Village.

Tokyo 2020 and FIFA are still discussing the finalization of soccer venues. There are currently six, including two in Tokyo and one as far away as Sapporo (650 miles north).

Tokyo 2020 and the World Baseball Softball Confederation are still discussing the potential of adding a second baseball-softball venue in Fukushima prefecture, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami. Fukushima is about 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants and several MLB and World Baseball Classic games, is not a 2020 Olympic venue.

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic volleyball venue could be moved

Tokyo Olympic venues

Comcast, U.S. Olympic Committee sign partnership through 2020 Olympics

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Comcast and the U.S. Olympic Committee signed an agreement making Comcast an official partner of the USOC through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The deal allows Comcast and its brands to use Team USA marks in advertising and marketing, including the Olympic Rings.

More information is in this Comcast press release.

Comcast NBC Universal holds the U.S. media rights for the Olympics through 2032.

MORE: NBC Sports to air USA Track and Field events through 2024