Natalie Coughlin, Dancing with the Stars

Natalie Coughlin proved to be Dancing with the Stars' first shocking casualty when she got booted last week despite great scores and encouraging critiques from the judges. "It's hard when you're working so hard on something for 10 weeks and then it's just taken away from you in the blink of an eye," Coughlin tells TVGuide.com. As surprising as her elimination was, the 11-time Olympic medalist admits certain signs pointed to an exit. See what the swimming star has to say about her time on the show, what she's "p---ed" about and more. 

TVGuide.com: I was so bummed to see you go.
Natalie Coughlin:
I was bummed too! It's just one of those things where I think a lot of people expected me to be around, so they voted for others. Then the judges were hard on us. We went first and that's always difficult. It's hard for them to be over-complimentary when you have nine couples following you.

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TVGuide.com: A lot of people are saying you shouldn't have been eliminated. Does that make it easier?
Coughlin:
It is nice to hear, but it's just like — ugh, I miss it so much! I never got a chance to do the ballroom stuff that Alec [Mazo] was sure I was going to be really good at. I'm sad because I'm never going to be able to dance like that ever again. The training was awesome. That was my favorite part — just working so hard with Alec for a purpose. I can take dance classes now to supplement my swim training, but it's never going to be with the same competitive drive and focus that I had on the show.

TVGuide.com: You also apologized when you left for not showing how much you enjoyed it.
Coughlin:
Yeah. It's how the packages are edited and when I'm working hard, I'm really focused. I felt like people thought I wasn't passionate about it, but I was. I just don't smile when I'm working hard. The producers decided to show a certain aspect of me, which is hard-working, which I think may have come across differently than it does in person. When you whittle down hours and hours of training into two minutes, it seems like we're not having any fun, but I really loved it.

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TVGuide.com: That's probably the athlete in you, right?
Coughlin:
I think that's part of it. In swimming, you work hard and you don't talk because you physically can't. You get your work done. You don't complain. You do what you need to do to do your best. I used that same attitude on Dancing and I felt like I improved tremendously. Our scores were good, other than last week, and I honestly don't know why we got such low scores. Alec was adamant there wasn't a lift and I really don't know what they were talking about with me not having the aggression you need in the paso doble. I loved the whole package and afterward, I was shocked the judges didn't like it as much.

TVGuide.com: Where did you think you stood going into Tuesday?
Coughlin:
We weren't really sure. We were at the bottom score-wise, but all the indication voting-wise said I'd be fine. Alec kept telling me we'd be fine. I was worried because our scores were so low. When we were eliminated, we were both shocked. We were eliminated in dress rehearsal and they never eliminate the couple in dress rehearsal that's going to be eliminated on the show. When we were eliminated in dress rehearsal, I was like, "Oh, maybe we're safe. They'd never do that." Oh no, they were just being extra mean! [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: They played up your "fights" with Alec in rehearsal and a lot of people thought you weren't getting along and that's why you got booted — he wasn't a good teacher and you weren't listening to him.
Coughlin:
We never had any fights. I'm still p---ed about that. The bolero was the week they said we were fighting and it was such b.s. That was footage from, like, before the competition even started spliced with audio from the week before. It was completely fabricated. That was the one thing I was completely upset about and you can't control the packages. We would discuss things, but we're great friends. We got along really, really well. I think both Alec and I weren't fake to the camera. We didn't cheese it up. We didn't try to be someone that we weren't. Maybe that's not always exciting, but we were honest. I get [you may have to be cheesy on the show], but that's not me and I refuse to do that.

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TVGuide.com: What was it like watching this week?
Coughlin:
I thought Joanna [Krupa] did a fantastic job on the mambo. I thought Louie [Vito] looked great, other than dropping Chelsie [Hightower]! [Laughs] We had it on TiVo and rewound it a couple times because we weren't sure if that was supposed to happen or not. Mark Dacascos is awesome. I really miss all my new friends. The marathon was cool. I didn't quite understand how it worked, like if it was just the same routine over and over again. The camera didn't focus on all nine couples, so it seemed like the placements were predetermined. It's like, "Oh look, they have Michael Irvin. Oh, he's the first to go." They didn't focus on Mya and Dmitry [Chaplin]. But I thought it was cool.

TVGuide.com: What's next for you? Are you training again?
Coughlin:
I won't start training for a while, but I'm trying to get organized again, settle back into life. It's a pretty big move. I have so much stuff to unpack!