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Natalie Coughlin withdraws from 50 Free, won't be an Olympian in 2016, but not retiring

After failing to qualify in the 100 Back nor 100 Free, Natalie Coughlin has announced that she won't swim in the 50 Free. She also stressed that she's not retiring.

Natalie Coughlin will not be adding to her 12 Olympic medals in 2016.
Natalie Coughlin will not be adding to her 12 Olympic medals in 2016.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Golden Bears and United State swimming legend Natalie Coughlin has withdrawn from the 50 Free, set to start on Saturday morning. In doing so, she has given up on her last chance to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic swimming team.

Earlier on the week, Natalie Coughlin had made the final of the 100 Back (won by Olivia Smoliga of Georgia, a self-proclaimed Natalie Coughlin fan), but could not finish in the top 2. In fact, Coughlin had the top seed time entering the event, but end up finishing 8th (last) in the final. Coughlin also swam in the 100 Free, but was not able to make it past the semifinals.

She was not at the top of her game this week, and the U.S. Swimming Trial is the wrong time to not be at one's best.

At the end of the prelim session today, Coughlin announced that she will scratch her 50 Free swim tomorrow. Instead, she will just concentrate on cheering for her friends.

While Natalie has found rejuvenations in recent years after a disappointing 2012 Olympic Trial where she only made the relay, it has simply not been a good week of swimming for the California Golden Girl. To prolong her career, Coughlin switched from training with Teri McKeever and the Cal women's team to train with Dave Durden and the Cal men's team. She has found success in the world championships in between the Olympics, but just not this week.

Natalie Coughlin has 12 Olympic medals in her career - 3 Golds, 4 Silver, 5 Bronzes. What is particularly unique is that for every Olympic event that she has participated in, she has earned a medal. Coughlin's 12 medals ties her withe Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most all-time by a female swimmer. Jenny Thompson won her last medal (mostly in relays) in her age 31. Dara Torres won her last medal at age 41 in the 50 Free. Torres participated and medaled in 5 Olympics.

Coughlin may choose to take some time off and then refocus to shoot for the 2020 Olympics when she will be 38 year young. Whatever her decision, she has certainly earned the right to either keep on pursuing that 13th medal (because racing is fun for her) or bow out gracefully.