Natalie Coughlin, a 19-year-old sophomore swimmer at Cal, is one of five nominees for an ESPY Award as the Best Female College Athlete.
Coughlin, who earlier this year was a finalist for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete, is an ESPY finalist along with UConn basketball player Sue Bird, Arizona softball player Jennie Finch, UCLA softball player Stacey Nuveman and Southwest Missouri State basketball player Jackie Stiles.
The 10th Annual ESPY Awards will be held Wednesday, July 10 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, the new home of the Academy Awards. Actor Samuel L. Jackson will be hosting the show and Coughlin will be along side some of the biggest names in sports, including Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Jennifer Capriati and Annika Sorenstam. There are 35 different categories of ESPY Awards, ranging from Best Male Athlete to the Best Record-Breaking Performance.
At the 2002 NCAA championships March 21-23 in Austin, Texas, Coughlin was spectacular in earning NCAA Swimmer of the Year honors for the second year in a row. She won three individual national titles, breaking NCAA, American and U.S. Open records in all three events. Coughlin won the 100 backstroke (49.97, first woman to swim under 50 seconds), the 200 backstroke (1:49.52) and the 100 butterfly (50.01). She also broke the NCAA, American and U.S. Open record in the 100 freestyle, swimming a time of 47.47 as the lead-off leg of the Bears’ 400 freestyle relay.
In her brief career, Coughlin has now set two world records, 24 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 Winner for swimming April 3.