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Natalie Coughlin: I could swim again in London

Natalie Coughlin may not be done making history just yet.

Heading into the Olympics, sports media had reported that the 4x100-meter freestyle relay would be Coughlin’s only London race. After tying the record for the most medals of any female Olympian in U.S. history with a bronze on Saturday, Coughlin told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday that there is a chance she could swim another race. With a 13th medal, she'd set a new record. 

Coughlin, 29, said that there is a chance she could be part of another relay team before the conclusion of the Games, as she did not qualify for any of the individual events. The 4x100-meter medley relay is on Friday. In 12 races over the course of her Olympic career, Coughlin has medaled in all 12.  

“There’s a lot of factors that play into that,’’ Coughlin said about a potential race. “One of the great things about Team USA in swimming is we have so much depth and so much talent so we have options for the medley relays. That being said, I’m not trying to force myself on a relay. I’m there, and it’s 100 percent the coach’s decision.’’

The U.S. swim team coach, Teri McKeever, also is Coughlin’s personal coach. It was McKeever’s decision that resulted in an unorthodox medal for Coughlin on Saturday. Though Coughlin did not swim in the 4x100 relay final, she swam in the preliminary round, which by rule still earned her a medal. McKeever decided to leave her out of the final in favor of Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt, who swam an American-record time of 3:34.24 to finish third.

“I had a very, very fast relay takeoff (in the preliminary round), so I think that made them a little nervous, I don’t really know,’’ Coughlin said. “I was very supportive of the four that were up there and they did a fantastic job. I think a lot of it is (McKeever) wants to err on the side of being conservative being that she is my personal coach as well as the head coach.

“She told me and I was fine with it. A lot of the coaches were really supportive of me. It’s a hard thing, but I’m glad for the four girls.’’

Because she wasn’t part of the team that swam in the final, Saturday also marked the first time that Coughlin did not stand on the podium.

“I still haven’t had time to really process it, and I earned this medal in kind of a strange way,’’ she said. “This is the first time that I haven’t been on the medal podium myself, so very unceremoniously Teri gives it to me in a meeting, of course, but it’s a little strange.’’

While the assumption coming into London was that this would be the conclusion of Coughlin’s brilliant Olympic career, she did not completely rule out a potential run at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“My thoughts change on a daily basis,’’ she said. “I absolutely love swimming. I’m going to continue to train and be fit, so my thing is, if I’m healthy enough to compete, why not, because I love it. But I go back and forth, and right now I’m just trying to focus on this week.’’

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