US Olympic Medallist Recalls Emotional Abuse By Coach
12-time Olympic medallist, swimmer Natalie Coughlin, has shared a horrific incident from the past, opening up about an emotional trauma she had gone through at the hands of her former club coach. Coughlin was then just a teenager who was training under the guidance of Ray Mitchell, when she had to put up with issues of emotional abuse and body shaming.
“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 in an interview on Undeniable With Joe Buck – a talk show on July 3.
“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
She explained how strong she was on her own, so she didn’t need an “extra push” from her coach. “He was just straight up abusive,” stated Coughlin.
Coughlin went on and shared about how Mitchell would walk by other young swimmers and say things like, “Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle,” or “You’re too fat.”
Coughlin was body-shamed and said that it was both tough and ridiculous. When asked how traumatizing it was for a teenager to bear all the taunting, Coughlin responded, “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.'”
With the body positivity campaign raging worldwide, according to Coughlin, the body shaming from her coach fuelled insecurity in her and among the teammates. Some even developed eating disorders. “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.
She also admitted that coping with body shaming and emotional abuse was tougher each day, but she couldn’t 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,” she added.
Coughlin confirmed she kept swimming because it would act as a therapy and “a springboard to a degree somewhere and to pay for school somewhere.”
Coughlin became one of the most celebrated female Olympians in the US. She won 12 Olympic medals during her career, awarded the most in US history in any sport and the second most by a female in Olympic history.
She is currently pregnant with her first child, leaving behind Mitchell’s “toxic environment” .“I was so happy to get that out of my life.”
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