Top 50 Cal Sports Moments -- No. 20: Dual Perfection, 1997

Three-time Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin excelled on every stage but she was unbeatable in dual meets at Cal, assembling a 61-0 career record
Former Cal swim star Natalie Coughlin
Former Cal swim star Natalie Coughlin / Former Cal swim star Natalie Coughlin

As the Pac-12 Conference era comes to a close after more than a century, we count down the Top 50 moments involving Cal athletics.

THE MOMENT: On Feb. 14, 2004, Natalie Coughlin delivered a Valentine’s Day gift to Cal swimming by helping the Golden Bears beat Stanford for the first time since 1976 while completing her dual-meet career with an unblemished record of 61-0.

THE STORY: Natalie Coughlin competed in three Olympics— 2004, ’08 and ’12 — winning 12 medals, tied for the most by any female American swimmer. The only other athlete in any Olympic sport to win a medal in every event he or she entered was Finnish distance running legend Paavo Nurmi.

Coughlin also won 27 medals at World Championships and 21 more at the Pan Pacific Games, giving her 60 medals on the sport’s three biggest stages. Not surprisingly, she is a member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.

Closer to home, at Cal, the Bay Area native won 12 NCAA titles and three national collegiate Swimmer of the Year awards. During her time with the Bears, Coughlin broke three world records, seven American records and three NCAA records.

At one time or another, Coughlin, now 41, held Cal program records in eight different individual events along with four relays.

Less publicized but equally remarkable is this: Coughlin compiled a record of 61-0 in dual-meet races during her Cal career. She wrote the final chapter of that story against the Bears’ long-time rival.

The Cal women hadn’t beaten Stanford in a dual meet in 28 years, but Coughlin played a lead role in halting that drought. 

She won the 50 free, 100 butterfly and 100 free individual races — setting NCAA records in the first two of those. With Cal trailing by seven points entering the 400 free relay, the meet’s final race, Coughlin set another collegiate record with her leadoff leg on the winning 400 freestyle relay, and the Bears placed first and third to clinch a 151-149 victory.

* Top 50 Moment No. 21: Gray’s Anatomy 

* Top 50 Moment No. 22: Granger's Record

Only specific acts that occurred while the team or athlete was at Cal were considered for the Top 50 list, and accomplishments spanning a season or a career were not included. 

Leslie Mitchell of the Cal Bears History Twitter site aided in the selection of the top 50 moments.

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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Jeff Faraudo


Jeff Faraudo was a sports writer for Bay Area daily newspapers since he was 17 years old, and was the Oakland Tribune's Cal beat writer for 24 years. He covered eight Final Fours, four NBA Finals and four Summer Olympics.