Suwanee youth swimmers wrote to Olympic gold medal swimmer Natalie Coughlin, and she showed up.
That's an honor, considering children from about 150 swim teams all over the country did the same thing, as part of a contest. But Coughlin liked the Suwanee entry best, so she made a personal appearance Sunday (December 2) as part of the contest by Pantene, the hair products company that is her sponsor.
Coughlin spoke at the North Gwinnett High theater, and later posed for photos with dozens of youth swimmers from the Morning View and North Gwinnett swim teams. She noted that the Suwanee swimmers' essay contained the slogan "swim fast, have fun."
-- Did you attend Natalie Coughlin's appearance in Suwanee? What was your reaction? What are your memories of her Olympic efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
"That really spoke to me," she said.
A California native and resident, she told her audience that she has been swimming since age 6 (she's now 30). She noted that she was "chubby and uncoordinated" at that age, "not much of a swimmer."
After winning 12 medals in three Olympics (Athens, Beijing, and London), she said that "swimming is my job ... but it's not about winning gold medals or breaking world records. It's what you learn along the way, the friendships."
Some other highlights of her speech:
- "I don't take any supplements. I don't know what's in them. I eat tons of vegetables and tons of fruits," though she noted that she's not a vegetarian.
- She is not aware of the use of performance enhancing drugs by Olympic swimmers. "There will always be those who get tempted," she said. "So much of what we do is technique and feel for the water."
- Her pre-race routine includes stretching. "I try to stick to a routine. It helps you stay calm and get in the right mindset."
- She will probably make a run at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. "I did not have a great season (this year). You could get upset or you could learn from it."
- There are "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" motivators: intrinsic is the "motor inside you -- you have to figure that out." Extrinsic is "your great coaches, parents and friends."
- "When the alarm clock goes off at 4:30, is there a smile on my face? No. But the benefits outweigh the challenges along the way. You have to make sacrificies, but in the end, they do pay off."