Sept. 16, 2002
Natalie Coughlin was named USA Swimming's Athlete of the Year at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention in Dallas last Saturday. The junior swimmer from Concord, Calif., also earned The ConocoPhillips Performance of the Year award.
Coughlin earned the Performance of the Year honor by becoming the first woman in history to break the one minute barrier in the 100-meter backstroke, setting the world record with a 59.58 time at the 2002 Summer National Championships. She went on to win four other events and became the first swimmer since 1978 to win five national titles at one meet.
In addition to her world record, Coughlin also broke the American record in the 200m back (2:08.53), the oldest U.S. mark on the books.
At the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships in Yokohama, Japan in August, Coughlin won six medals. She set the American record in the 100-meter freestyle (53.99), becoming the first U.S. woman and the second female in history to break 54 seconds in the event. Coughlin won four gold medals, one for each of her individual events, tying Australian Ian Thorpe with the most overall medals.
Coughlin, who earlier this year was a finalist for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete, was also one of five nominees for an ESPY award as Best Female Collegiate Athlete. In her brief career, she has now set three world records, 27 American records, is a two-time NCAA Swimmer of the Year, has won six individual NCAA titles and was named the recipient of the 2001-02 Honda Sport Award for swimming April 3.