By Karen Price | March 22, 2016, 2:28 p.m. (ET)


Dara Torres celebrates after competing in the semifinals of the women's 50-meter freestyle at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2012 in Omaha, Neb.

Dara Torres, Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin share more than just a background as decorated Olympic swimmers. Each of the three also has 12 Olympic medals, the most of any U.S. woman in any sport.

Torres came on the scene first, making her Olympic debut in 1984, and to this day is the only U.S. swimmer to have competed in five different Olympic Games. The Los Angeles native was in high school when she began training for her first Games, and at the age of 17 won her first gold medal as a member of the 4x100-meter freestyle team, competing in her hometown. She returned in 1988 and added to her medal total with a bronze in the 4x100 free and silver in the 4x100 medley.

In 1992 she earned her second gold medal, swimming in the 4x100 free in Barcelona, Spain. Torres came out of retirement in 2000 to win individual bronze medals in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 butterfly as well as relay gold medals in the 4x100 free and 4x100 medley.

At the age of 41, she came out of retirement once again to swim in Beijing in 2008, becoming the oldest female Olympic swimmer ever. She won three silver medals to bring her total to 12.

Thompson made her Olympic debut in 1992. Expectations were high for Thompson, who held the world record in the 50 and 100 freestyle events and was competing in five events. Her results were mixed, however. Thompson missed out on the 200 free final and finished fifth in the 50 free, but she won a silver medal in the 100 free and collected the first of eight Olympic gold medals as part of the the 4x100 free and 4x100 medley teams.

Jenny Thompson swims in the women's 100-meter butterfly qualifying heat at the FINA World Swimming Championships at the Conseco Fieldhouse on Oct. 10, 2004 in Indianapolis.

Although the gold medal in an individual event remained out of her grasp — bronze in the 100 free in 2000 would be her only other individual medal — Thompson collected another six gold medals and two silvers as part of relay teams in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games before retiring. Only former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina has more gold medals (nine) among all female Olympians.

Coughlin has collected her 12 medals competing in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. She has medaled in all 12 Olympic events in which she has competed, and in 2008 became the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the 100 backstroke. She is also the only female U.S. athlete to win six medals at one Games, which she did in 2008. After failing to qualify for an individual event and competing only in the 4x100 free in London, leaving with a bronze medal, Coughlin, 33, is ready to make one more go at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Since 2012, Coughlin has switched coaches, Teri McKeever to Dave Durden, and is preparing for the upcoming U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June. She has focused primarily on the 50 and 100 free events, while also adding back in the 100 backstroke with which she had so much success in 2004 and 2008. With one more medal she would become the most decorated female Olympian in U.S. history and the second-most decorated female Olympian in the world behind Latynina (18).

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.