By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
March 29, 2011
Many people know that Natalie Coughlin is a world champion swimmer. She has won 11 Olympic medals, three of them gold, and made history in the 2008 Summer Olympics when she became the first American female athlete in Olympic history to win six medals in one Olympics. But Coughlin is also an avid cook who contributes recipes and lifestyle tips to the California Dried Plum Board’s website (www.californiadriedplums.org) and an amateur photographer and dance enthusiast (thanks to her stint on “Dancing with the Stars”). Coughlin is currently training with the hopes of competing at the 2012 Olympics in London. Based in California, the 28 year old is of Irish and Filipino heritage. Keep up to date on her swim meets at www.nataliecoughlin.com.
Q. Where did you go on vacation when you were a child?
A. Hawaii. I love Kauai. I used to love visiting relatives in Hawaii and they surfed, so I surfed. I love surfing, but I kind of gave it up until my swimming career is over because it’s an easy way to get hurt. I stick with body surfing for now. But I do miss it.
Q. What is a relaxing day trip for you?
A. Driving out to Marshall, Calif., near Tomales Bay. My husband and I love going to Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall to buy and shuck our own oysters. You can have a nice picnic there and just eat really fresh food. The view is gorgeous. It’s a really nice day trip for us.
Q. What restaurant is your guilty pleasure?
A. There’s this hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in Kauai called Hamura Saimin that I always have to go to. I have such a sense of nostalgia for that place. The food has enough sodium to last you a week, but it’s so delicious! It’s uniquely Hawaiian. When I was young, we would get Spam musubi from the store and bring it with us on the beach. From an intellectual standpoint it was pretty gross, but I ate it as a kid. And I can honestly say that I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it now, either!
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. If I’m going for a meet or to stay at the Olympic Village or a World Cup meet and I don’t know what it’ll be like there, I like to bring some comforts from home — my pillow, some scented candles, bath salts and sometimes even a French press for coffee. I also love these eye pads by Tempur-Pedic that I don’t think they make anymore.
Q. What are your favorite cities?
A. I was just in Milan this past November for the first time and I loved it. The food was so good and I got to buy a couple pairs of beautiful Italian shoes. They were so well made, gorgeous and cheap. I really like Barcelona because of the mix of the old and new architecture. I love Sydney. There’s this indoor-outdoor feel there that I love. And Australians are very in tune with the environment and being healthy in general. I’ve been to Paris once when I was quite young and I wasn’t able to really appreciate it, but I did know it was a special place.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I want to go to Rome! I’ve only been to a couple places in Italy but I loved all of them.
Q. Are you a member of any frequent flier plans?
A. Yes! And once I needed 10,000 miles to reach a certain status on United. So my husband and I booked these really cheap flights to London, stayed there for a few hours and then flew back home.
Q. What is your travel horror story?
A. I was looking at my flight itinerary in Brazil and saw that I had several connecting flights to get back home. I noticed that my second flight was actually scheduled to depart prior to my first flight.
At first I thought it may be because of a time change but it wasn’t. There was a mistake. So I got the time all fixed. But there ended up being a change in airports but that was never communicated to anyone. So I went to check in and was told I was at the wrong airport. I burst into tears.
The only money I had left was about $20 USD, but I found a cab driver who was willing to take me to the right airport. I’m not sure how we even understood each other. I don’t speak any Portuguese and was trying to communicate with him with the really bad Spanish that I did remember. I ended up catching my flight ‘cause it was late, too. Now I can laugh at it but back then it was frightening.
© 2011 JAE-HA KIM
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