At the America’s Cup World Series San Francisco in August the guest racer program welcomed Michael Johnson, the four-time gold medalist who’s considered the greatest long sprinter in the history of track and field.
Johnson famously fell off the back of ORACLE TEAM USA COUTTS during the Super Sunday fleet race finale, which led to new found admiration for the athleticism required to race the AC45.
“I have new respect for sailors,” said the 44-year-old Johnson. “The agility and movement that’s required while the boat’s moving around at the same time is amazing.”
Yesterday, another Olympic gold medalist, swimmer Natalie Coughlin, rode aboard the aft trampoline on Emirates Team New Zealand. Her goal was to not only stay out of the way, but also not fall off like Johnson.
“Everyone reminded me to hold on, don’t fall in like Michael Johnson,” said Coughlin. “I like Michael, I’m just glad I didn’t do the same.”
Coughlin has spent many hours training in the water. Her 12 Olympic medals, including three gold, are proof of the hours of dedication for three Olympic Games. But she’s spent scant little time on top of the water, or sailing for that matter.
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“I would love to experience it more and get more experience on the water,” said Coughlin. “It was quite fun, but there was a lot that went into it. I don’t know the terms, but those guys were working butts off.
“I was surprised how they threw me out there and trusted that I wasn’t going to mess up everything,” said Coughlin. “What was amazing was how closely the boats cross one another.”
Racing in yesterday’s second fleet race, Coughlin found peaceful romanticism in the experience.
“Even though we were going so fast, I was amazed at how peaceful it was,” said Coughlin. “It was really peaceful, between the sunset and the incredible view. I was just enjoying the fresh air and the water. It was really cool. I was just taking a ride.”