Mark J. Terrill
July 02, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Former Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Tyler Clary bid farewell at the U.S. swimming trials, although only Clary said he was retiring.

Coughlin used the `R' word only to emphasize that she wasn't announcing her retirement Friday at age 33.

The veteran swimmers failed to qualify for Rio in any of their events. Clary is among those who won't be defending the titles they won four years ago in London.

The 27-year-old finished third in the 200-meter backstroke final, with winner Ryan Murphy and runner-up Jacob Pebley making their first Olympic teams.

''That's it,'' Clary said, dripping wet after his race. ''I don't see any reason to continue. It's really not a bad thing.''

At 33, Coughlin finished eighth in the 100 backstroke, her specialty. She won Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008 and was the first woman to swim the event in under 1 minute.

She didn't qualify for the 100 free final and on Friday she withdrew from the 50 free, knowing she couldn't post a competitive time.

''I've definitely been off for a few months and I really can't put my finger on it,'' she said. ''I've been really tired and just not being able to recover and get out of the hole. I really don't know why. It's not from lack of working hard. I've worked my butt off this year.''

Coughlin was close to her personal bests in the 100 back and 100 free last year.

''That momentum, for whatever reason, didn't move forward,'' she said. ''I don't look at the past four years as a waste of time.''

Neither does Clary, the current 200 back champion.

''This last four years has been pretty tough for a number of reasons,'' he said. ''I'm really happy to have come into this meet and had what I would say is my best performance in the last quad. Sadly, that wasn't enough.''

Clary plans to visit a go-kart track with his family for the second time before leaving Omaha.

''I'm looking forward to turning a page in the book of my life and starting a new chapter,'' he said. ''I'm going to get to do a lot of things that I've been wanting to do for years now.''

Coughlin was seeking her fourth Olympic appearance. She leaves an enviable legacy in the sport that she began at age six. Her 12 medals are tied with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated woman in Olympic history. She won a medal in every Olympic event she ever entered.

''There are so many special moments that I've had,'' she said.

Coughlin's husband Ethan Hall is a swim club coach, and she loves training almost as much as competing. She said she'll continue to swim in some capacity.

''It will always be a part of my life,'' she said. ''I don't really see the point of saying that it's over because it will always be there.''

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