Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic swimming medalist, is open to competing seriously in the backstroke again, even at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“There’s definitely that possibility,” Coughlin said Thursday.
Coughlin, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic 100m backstroke champion, hasn’t often raced backstroke since she failed to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the 100m back. She did make the team as a member of the 4x100m freestyle relay and has been focusing on sprint freestyle ever since.
Coughlin entered a backstroke race in a domestic long-course meet for the first time since 2012 at the Austin Pro Swim Series on Jan. 17 and swam faster than she did leading up to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Coughlin added more and more backstroke to her training last fall, to complement her freestyle, and felt she swam quite well in the backstroke in European short-course competition.
Missy Franklin won 100m back gold at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships, but in the last six years, Coughlin is the only other American woman to win a medal in the event at a major international meet. It would seem one 2016 Olympic spot is there for the taking, since two women will make the Olympic team in the event at trials.
Still, Coughlin’s better shot at Rio could be in the 100m freestyle, given the opportunity to make a relay if she’s in the top six at the trials.
“Focus is still the 100m freestyle,” Coughlin said Thursday.
Coughlin did not qualify for the 2015 World Championships team but will compete in the Pan American Games in Toronto in July.
Coughlin is tied with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most Olympic medals among U.S. women and has won a medal in every Olympic event that she has entered.