Triple Olympian Coutts bids farewell to swimming

1 November 2016

SWIMMING: Five-time Olympic medallist and eight-time Commonwealth Games Champion Alicia Coutts will bid farewell to the sport of swimming after wrapping up her competitive racing career at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. 

The 29-year-old will leave a legacy on the sport after a stellar swimming career that saw her collect an incredible five Olympic, eight World Championship, six Pan Pacific and nine Commonwealth Games medals for an incredible total of 28 international medals won during her time in the sport. 

Originally from Brisbane Queensland, Alicia moved to the Australian Institute of Sport in 2006 and shortly after went over to train under coach John Fowlie, and never looked back. 

Making her debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Coutts would go on to compete at two more Olympic Games, two World Championships, two Commonwealth Games and two Pan Pacific Championships as part of the Australian Dolphins Swim team. 

With a total of ten national long course titles to her name across four different events, Coutts’ versatility in the pool became obvious, and her national success soon translated to the world stage with medals won in the 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley, 4x100 and 4x200m freestyle relays and the 4x100m medley relays. 

It was in 2010 that Coutts started to make headlines internationally and moved her way up the swimming ranks. 

Dubbed the ‘Delhi-Golden Girl’ after winning five gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Coutts created a reputation for herself as a gutsy swimmer, a master of many strokes and a must have for a number of relay teams. 

This success continued into 2011 where she won silver in the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley and bronze in the 4x100m medley relay at the Shanghai World Championships. 

Then at her second Olympic Games in London Coutts wrote her name in the history books and joined an elite group as one of only three swimmers to win five medals at a single Olympics – joining Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe. 

Coutts’ five-medal haul from London came in the form of bronze in the 100m butterfly, silver in the 200m individual medley, 4x200m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley relay and she capped it off with a gold medal in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. 

This outstanding achievement was credit to the hard work and dedication Coutts had applied to her training in the lead up to the Games and a testament to her ‘toughness’. 

Alicia’s Coach, Fowlie said her attitude to tough training sessions and her overall work ethic was something that set her apart from many other swimmers. 

“Alicia always had such a strong work ethic, in the early days she would come and train and then go to work at night and pour beers to make money,” Fowlie said. 

“She would work weekends and nights and still come in every morning and give 110% at training, I think she had great values instilled in her from her mum from a very young age. 

“Throughout her career she went from strength to strength and kept looking forward. She learnt how to deal with setbacks and once the flame of belief had been lit, I believe after making her first team in 2008, then there was no stopping her,” Fowlie added.    

When reflecting on her career Coutts’ said it would be sad to leave such a huge part of her life behind but the memories would always remain. 

“I have spent such a large part of my life on the Australian Swim Team and over the years I have made so many amazing friends and met teammates that have become like family to me,” Coutts said. 

“It will be sad not to be racing and to not to be a part of this amazing team but I am honoured to have been able to represent my country for such a long time and the Australian Swim Team will forever be a part of my heart. 

“I couldn’t have achieved so much in my career without the unwavering support of my mum (Julie) and my husband, Steve. 

“I want to thank my mum for all the years of sacrifices she made, my husband for his love and support and all of my family and friends for being there for me. 

“I also want to thank my amazing coach John Fowlie who worked with me for 10 years and helped me to constantly push my boundaries and expect more from myself. 

“He made me the strong, determined, hard-working and resilient person I am today and he is such an amazing and knowledgeable person and coach, it was such a pleasure to work with him. 

“I could not have achieved any of this without his guidance and I appreciate everything he has done to get me to where I am today, even though at times I know I was difficult, he always believed in me and pushed me to be my best.” 

One of Coutts’ more recent career highs and a true display of her resilience came at the 2016 Australian Swimming Championships when she was aiming for a spot on the Rio Olympic Team. 

After missing a top two finish in the 100m butterfly, it all came down to her last event the 200m individual medley. 

Coutts eventually took the title in the 200m IM, bouncing back from injury and missing the team in 2015, to qualify for her third Olympic Games. 

"I'm just glad I didn't give up when it was hard," she said after the medley final. "I've been through quite a few hard things in my life but I'm just glad I persevered,” Coutts said. 

Her coach said not many people knew the extent of her injury at the time and the amount of pain she was in just to make it to the Australian Championships. 

“Alicia tore her labrum in her shoulder but it was never fully repaired, leaving her swimming in constant pain for two years,” Fowlie said. 

“She had a choice, surgery and end her career or push through and basically swim over one million strokes of constant pain to get on that team for Rio. 

“Her final career moments was her swimming for herself, to be able to finish on her own terms and say goodbye to representing Australia and the Dolphins Swim Team in her own way.” 

In Rio, Coutts swam an emotional last race, leaving nothing in the tank and nothing to chance at her last shot on the world stage. 

“I am really happy. I did the best I could in Rio,” Coutts said of her gallant fifth. 

“From a little girl who had a dream to be an elite swimmer, to my final race in Rio I wouldn’t change a thing about my career and I am so proud of everything my team and I managed to achieve over the years.” 

Outside of the pool, Coutts has demonstrated her dedication to other causes and it is no secret that she has a soft side – for animals at least. Coutts has shown her passion for animals through her work for the RSPCA and caring for her 10 pets at home. 

Now settled back in Canberra and working in Real Estate, following a long overdue honeymoon with Husband Steve, Coutts will have more time to focus on life away from the pool and is excited for what the future may hold. 

“I have had such an amazing career in sport and feel privileged to have been part of the inner sanctum of the Australian Swim Team, but I am so looking forward to following my other passions in life now, and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.” 

Alicia will be honoured at the upcoming Swimming Australia Gala Dinner for her services to the sport alongside 14 other recent retirees. 

The 2016 Swimming Australia Gala dinner will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Sunday November 7.


Alicia Coutts - Swimmer Number 666

NICKNAME: Couttsie

D.O.B: 14/09/1987

BORN:   Brisbane, QLD

LIVES: Canberra, ACT

International Medals:

Olympic Games: 5

World Championships: 8

Commonwealth Games: 9

Pan Pacific Championships: 6 

TOTAL – 28


AUSTRALIAN SWIM TEAM REPRESENTATIVE HONOURS AND RESULTS                                               

Olympic Games

Beijing, China, 2008 - 5th 200m IM                                           

London, England, 2012 - Gold: 4x100m freestyle relay, Silver: 200m IM, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay Bronze: 100m butterfly

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 5th 200m IM

World Championships 

Shanghai, China, 2011 - Silver: 100m fly, 200m IM Bronze: 4x100m medley, 5th 4x100m free, 6th 100m free

Barcelona, Spain, 2013 - Silver: 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay

Commonwealth Games               

Delhi, India, 2010 - Gold: 200m IM, 100m fly, 100m free, 4x100m free, 4x100m medley relay        

Glasgow, Scotland, 2014 - Gold: 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay (heat swimmer), 4x100m freestyle relay (heat swimmer) Silver: 200m IM, 4th 100m butterfly           

Pan Pacific         

Irvine, USA, 2010 - Silver: 4x100m free, 4x100m medley Bronze: 100m fly, 5th 200m IM, 10th 100m free 

Gold Coast, Australia, 2014 - Gold: 100m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay Silver: 200m IM      

With thanks to Swimming Australia                                        

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