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Should Bay Area Fave Natalie Coughlin Swim for a Record 13th Olympic Medal Saturday?

Lafayette resident and UC Berkeley grad has won 12 Olympic medals and was excluded from racing for the freestyle relay final; she could still be included in Saturday’s 400-meter medley relay.

Bay Area swimming legend Natalie Coughlin is in the midst of a balancing act that would rival that of her gymnastics compatriots.

Coughlin hopes to become the most decorated American female Olympian of all time. To do so, she needs the green light to be on the 400-meter medley relay squad Saturday at the 2012 Olympics in London. With a win in that event, Coughlin would garner her 13th medal, which would be the most ever for an American woman, breaking a three-way tie she currently shares with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres.

But Coughlin, 29, doesn’t want to lobby publicly for that spot, particularly after U.S. coach Teri McKeever, who also is also Coughlin’s personal coach and the coach at UC Berkeley, her alma mater, made the tough call to keep Coughlin off the 400 freestyle relay team for the final, even after Coughlin swam the fastest leg in the preliminary round. That squad nabbed the bronze medal, allowing Coughlin to collect her 12th medal in awkward fashion given her lack of her participation in the final.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, Coughlin said, "I could ... there are a lot of factors that play into that. We have a lot of depth and a lot of options for the medley relay. I'm not trying to force myself onto the relay."

Coughlin, who suggested last week that she is open to returning to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, stopped short of telling Lauer that she’d definitely be back for another Olympic go-round in 2016.

"My thoughts change on a daily basis," she said. "I'm going to continue to train and be fit. If I'm healthy enough to go for it, why not? My thoughts go back and forth on that."

Should Teri McKeever include Natalie Coughlin on the 400-meter medley relay race on Saturday? Let us know in the Comments below.

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