However, hearing first-hand how she is at a disdvantage when feeding during a 10K race was heartbreaking.
"I can't take a drink at the feeding station because I get unbalanced," explained Natalie without a hint of complaint or excuse. "I don't have muscle in my left (upper) leg, so it is hard. I put gel packs in my swimsuit and take those."
Despite her physical disadvantage, the inner strength and commitment to the sport shown by this incredible woman is inspirational and moves many to tears. Even the Olympic 10K gold medalist Larisa Ilchenko once remarked that Natalie is the most remarkable athlete in the sport.The REUTERS photo of the 10K race feeding station at the 2009 World Swimming Championships was taken by Alessandro Bianchi.
Note: Coaches place flags at the end of their feeding sticks in order to help their athletes quickly identify their location from the water as they swim towards them. FINA regulates the dimensions of the flags.