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Coughlin and her coach may (or may not) be in a tiff

Sep 18, 2012, 3:44 PM EDT

Swimming: U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Neither U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin nor her long-time coach, Terri McKeever, seem to know if they’ve had a falling out since an Olympics experience in London that was a little awkward for the pair.

Coughlin won bronze in London in the 4x100m freestyle relay, her twelfth career medal tying her with Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the most decorated lady swimmers of all-time. But she won the medal after only participating in the prelims and then – surprisingly – being dropped from the squad that raced in the final, a decision made by McKeever, who coached the women’s team in London. Naturally, the snub has everyone wondering if there’s bad blood between the two.

“No, no, no, no,” Coughlin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve been with Teri for 12 years. Our relationship is good… Teri’s been the most important figure in my swimming career. Our relationship is good; it’s fine.”

McKeever, who guided the U.S. women to 14 total medals this summer, seemed less certain.

“I don’t know that, to be honest,” McKeever was quoted as saying. “I would hope it doesn’t hurt our relationship. … I am proud of our relationship and what we accomplished over the last 12 years, 12 amazing years that have changed my life and her life.”

McKeever said she made the tough call to drop Coughlin in part because she was uncomfortable with how fast Coughlin made the exchange in swimming her leg of the prelims. The exceptionally fast exchange clocked in at 0:00, meaning Coughlin came as close as possible to leaving the block before her teammate touched the wall, narrowly avoiding an error that would have disqualified the team. It also meant that Coughlin’s split time, the fastest of among her teammates in the qualifying round, was deceptive. All that made McKeever nervous and led to her controversial choice.

After her disappointing showing in London, which Coughlin chalked up to a bad season, the swimming legend says she’s unsure of what’s next. The 30-year-old says she has made no decisions yet about her future and is leaving the door firmly open to continue her illustrious career.

It’s a decision she says she plans to make with McKeever’s input – but that’s a conversation that would necessitate, you know, talking to each other.