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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Coughlin, Phelps Among Swimming Nominees for U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2022

Coughlin, Phelps Among Swimming Nominees for U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2022

Michael Phelps (left) and Natalie Coughlin (right) at a press conference at the 2004 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee recently announced the names of 15 Olympians, nine Paralympians and five Olympic teams who are on the ballot for its 2022 Hall of Fame Class. Earning nominations are Olympic icons Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps, 46-time and 12-time Paralympic medalists, respectively, Trischa (Zorn) Hudson and Courtney (Jordan) Truitt and the historic 1976 women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay Olympic team.

Coughlin and Phelps headline the Olympic portion of the ballot, seeing Phelps' 28 medals and Coughlin's 12 put them as the two most decorated Olympians among this year's class of 15 nominees. Phelps, who is widely regarded as the greatest Olympian of all time, holds the top spot on numerous Olympic leaderboards: Most total medals (28), most gold medals (23), most gold medals won at a single Olympics (eight; 2008 Beijing Olympics), most gold medals of all time in an individual event (13), only American male swimmer to compete in five Olympics and the list goes on. 

Coughlin earns a nomination after becoming one of only seven female Olympians in history to tally at least 12 Olympic medals. She won three Olympic golds over her career, coming via her swims in the 2004 100m backstroke and 4x200m freestyle relay, as well as the 2008 100m backstroke. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Coughlin joined Germany's Kristin Otto as the only female swimmer to ever win six medals in one Olympiad. In U.S. history, there has only been seven occurrences where a female swimmer has won at least five medals in a single Olympiad, and Coughlin accounts for two of those instances (2004 and 2008).

Zorn and Jordan are also the two most decorated Paralympians on this year's ballot. Zorn's strongest performance came at the 1988 Paralympic Games, when she won an astounding 12 gold medals in a single Olympiad, a feat that had never been accomplished to that point nor been reached since. Ten of those medals were in individual events, which has only been accomplished one other time in history.

Jordan's nomination comes via her 12 medals across the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. Her individual gold came in the 50m freestyle S7 at the 2008 Paralympic Games, where she out-touched Paralympic legend Erin Popovich for first. 

The U.S. women's 4x100m freestyle relay team at the 1976 Olympics is one of the biggest underdog stories in the sport's history. The U.S. women’s chances of winning the 4x100 freestyle relay, the last event, at the 1976 Montreal Olympics were bleak. The East German women, some of whom were doping, had won 11 of the 12 gold medals heading into that relay and had the gold and silver medalists in the 100 freestyle. The U.S. didn’t even earn a medal in the 100 freestyle.
Despite an amazing second leg by Wendy Boglioli, the U.S. trailed by about eight-tenths of a second midway through the race. Jill Sterkel then split a 55.78, the fastest of any women in the field, on the third leg, giving U.S. anchor Shirley Babashoff the lead. She held on to pull off one of the greatest upsets in the history of swimming and set a world record by four seconds. The performance sparked the inspiration for the 2016 film, The Last Gold.

Voting for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is open until May 16. Cast your votes for these swimming icons here.

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