Deep Dive
Sunset|April 2019
Deep Dive

Olympic athlete Natalie Coughlin is best known for her exploits in the pool, but she’s also striking gold in her San Francisco Bay Area garden.

Mike Irvine

There is no pool.

That’s the one thing you’d expect to find in the backyard of a 12-time Olympic medalist. But Natalie Coughlin—at 36, the most decorated American female athlete in Olympic history—has no pool. “It’s the last thing I wanted,” she says. “I don’t know what to do at a pool other than swimming—it’s like bringing your work home.”

What Coughlin’s yard boasts instead is a rich edible garden carved into the hillside behind her home in Lafayette, just over 20 miles east of San Francisco. Coughlin and her husband, swim coach Ethan Hall, fell for the home’s secluded feel and expansive views in 2007. But Coughlin also had her eye on what was essentially a blank slate in an almost 30,000-square-foot backyard under a grove of majestic California live oaks. “I love having vegetables just outside my door,” she says. “I don’t need to go to the store!” Even when competing at the highest levels, Coughlin prepared her own meals and found there was no better way to ensure high-quality organic ingredients than growing them herself.

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April 2019