Natalie Coughlin Wins Unprecedented 60th International Medal

There are few athletes who can make a mark on their sport like American swimming star Natalie Coughlin has.

Tonight, in Toronto , Coughlin won her 60th international medal spanning the Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan Pacific Championships, and now the Pan American Games.

As soon as Allison Schmitt touched for gold in the women’s 4x100m medley relay on the final day of competition it was set in stone that Coughlin had done something others could only dream of accomplishing in their lifetime.

Coughlin played a major part in securing the gold medal for the United States, leading off the relay with a 59.05 backstroke split. That time is the fastest Coughlin has been since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and the fastest she’s ever been outside of the Beijing Olympic Games or 2008 Olympic Trials.

With the third fastest time in the world this year, Coughlin gave the Americans such a steady lead that they looked absolutely unbeatable.

Coughlin has been stellar all week. In the 100m freestyle, she swam the fastest time she has done since 2010. In the 50m freestyle, Coughlin managed a personal best time with a 24.66.

Coughlin’s success in the sport is unrivaled at this point. It was over 14-years ago that Coughlin won her first international medal when she took home two world titles at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka Japan.

During her career she has won 12 Olympic medals, 20 long course world championship medals, eight short course world championship medals, and now four Pan American games medals.

With some extremely strong performances this past week in Toronto, Coughlin looks to be as good as she always was as the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha are under a year away.


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Impressive? Yes. Remarkable? Yes. Unprecedented? No. defines unprecedented as meaning” without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled.”

Massi Rosolino won 65 international medals. Michael Phelps has won 61 GOLD medals alone, and 77 total. Ryan Lochte has won a whopping 85. Sixty is impressive, but it has been done before, and that wasn’t too difficult a list to come up with.

Sorry for excessive nitpicking.


Unprecedented for the women? Just trying to help…Natalie is awesome…I hope she will stay healthy for trials.


I do too, 100%. I think there is a shot of her winning a medal in Rio in the 100 back. In London it took a 58.8 to medal, which is only 2 tenths faster than Natalie right now. Today she was THIS close to breaking 59. Since January 2013, only Missy, Seebohm, Terakawa (since retired) and Madison Wilson have broken the barrier. Natalie is now the 4th best active 100 backstroker of the Olympic cycle. While she is aging, she seems to be doing pretty well to me, and if she devotes slightly more focus to backstroke I wonder if she could go faster yet and drop to 58 mid. That might sound ridiculous, but before today had she… Read more »

bad anon

Certainly unprecedented on the women’s side


A slightly more exhaustive search has found Jenny Thompson won 81 for the women’s side.

Of interest…Grant Hackett has 57 I believe, which means he could get the magic mark of 60 if he swims after Rio (or does very well at Rio and Kazan).


Not quite 60, but Yana Klochova won 55 medals. The impressive thing is that all 55 medals were won individually…she did not swim on a single medal winning Ukrainian relay her entire career.

For comparison, just over half (41) of Thompson’s 81 were relays, and 36 of Coughlin’s 60 were on relays. Phelps has “only” 42 individual medals and even Lochte, the most decorated swimmer I’ve found, has 52 solo medals to Klochova’s 55.

Patrick S

Some more female swimmers with more international medals than Coughlin: Therese Alshammar with 72, and Martina Moravcova with 67.


Which, while slightly off-topic, means that between Kazan and Rio, we should be looking out for Lochte to get four more individual medals to top Klochova. Interesting statistic.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch worked for 5-years with SwimSwam news as a web producer focusing on both Canadian and international content. He coached for Toronto Swim Club for four seasons as a senior coach focusing on the development of young swimmers. Mitch is an NCCP level 2 certified coach in Canada and an ASCA Level …

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