12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin sat down for an intimate interview on Undeniable With Joe Buck, where the swimmer opened up about the emotional abuse her former club coach, Ray Mitchell, put her and her teammates through when she was just a teenager.
"It was really tough because I was having a hard enough time as it was and then he was just piling on to me, just saying how I was an emotional basket case," Coughlin shared with Buck. "He was really emotionally abusive and just really tore me down, and tore me down when I didn't need to be torn down." Coughlin added that she was strong on her own, so she didn't need an "extra push" from her coach. "He was just straight up abusive," stated Coughlin.
Buck then asked Coughlin about how Mitchell would walk by other young swimmers and say things like, "Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle," or "You're too fat." Coughlin confirmed the body shaming and said that it was both tough and ridiculous. When Buck stated, "You couldn't get away with that now," Coughlin responded, saying, "Parents would be losing their mind if they heard that while their daughter, their 15-year-old daughter, is ordering a deli sandwich and gets mayonnaise on it that the coach says, 'Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle.'"
Coughlin also confirmed to Buck that the body shaming her coach inflicted on the team even caused some of her teammates to develop eating disorders. However, when Buck asked Coughlin what her parents' reactions were to her coach's actions, Coughlin admitted that she never told them about it. "I kept it away from them in many ways. You know, I was always very stubborn, and very strong-willed, and very independent, and so I just took it on myself. I didn't really share it with them and I just grinned and bore it," explained Coughlin.
Coughlin admitted that Mitchell's body shaming and emotional abuse was so tough on her that, at one point, she wanted to give up on her Olympic dreams. "I wanted to quit so badly, like, so badly. I really hated, hated swimming, and I hated the daily grind because it was five hours of just pure hell every day."
However, despite the negative feelings she formed toward the sport, she decided to keep going because she knew swimming would act as "a springboard to a degree somewhere and to pay for school somewhere." Fortunately, Coughlin did not give up on her passion and is now celebrated as one of the most decorated U.S. female Olympians today.