Lilly King, after a swim with snapping turtles, makes waves in, out of pool at Olympic Trials

Lilly King
Getty Images

Lilly King continues to back up brash comments with fast swimming.

The latest example came at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Monday night. King clocked 1:04.72 for the fastest time in the semifinals of the 100m breaststroke using her typical approach — taking it out in a rush and hanging on for dear life.

It marked the world’s fastest time since King lowered the world record to 1:04.13 at the 2017 World Championships.

On Tuesday night, King is a headliner among four total finals in Omaha. Winners qualify for Tokyo (and second-place finishers are expected to make it, too).

She can become the first woman to qualify outright for a U.S. Olympic team in the 100m breast in back-to-back Games since the legend Tracy Caulkins won the Olympic Trials in 1980 and 1984 (though she was unable to compete in 1980 due to the boycott),

But King’s story is always about more than times and records. In 2016, King made her first team for any major international meet by sweeping the 100m and 200m breast at Olympic Trials.

What she was known for outside her fast swimming — drinking a Coca-Cola nearly every day and a weekly McDonald’s Happy Meal — changed dramatically the next month.

She won the 100m breast in Rio after finger-wagging at an image of Russian rival Yuliya Efimova. King then called out Efimova for having served a doping ban, causing Efimova to cry at a post-race press conference.

Before these Trials, King put it out there that she believes the U.S. women can win every individual gold medal in Tokyo. The comment was part of an answer about filling the post-Michael Phelps void, but it made its way Down Under, where rival Australia is also staging its Olympic Trials this week.

After King’s comments, Australian Kaylee McKeown broke American Regan Smith‘s 100m back world record. And Ariarne Titmus swam the second-fastest 200m and 400m frees in history, serving notice to Olympic champion Katie Ledecky.

But King is currently unrivaled in her bread-and-butter event. She owns the five fastest times in the world this year and has one more pre-Tokyo splash on Tuesday, where she shines brightest — in the final of a big-time meet. And she is excelling a year after swimming with snapping turtles in Howard Lake just south of the Indiana University campus in Bloomington.

“One time, one of those swam right up next to me and I said, ‘That’s it, I’m out,’” King said, according to The Athletic.

SWIM TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Women’s Event Previews | Men’s Event Previews

A look at tonight’s races:

Women’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals — 8:07 p.m. ET
All of the contenders who swam morning prelims easily advanced, with Leah Smith posting the top time. Katie Ledecky was just .06 off that, but won her heat. Allison Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder, was third fastest. Simone Manuel is a 4x200m free relay candidate at the Olympics but, not too surprisingly, chose not to race it at Trials.

Men’s 200m Freestyle FINAL — 8:24
Kieran Smith, who on Sunday qualified for his first Olympics by winning the 400m freestyle, qualified fastest into this final by .48 of a second. He can become the first man to win both the 200m and 400m frees at a U.S. Olympic Trials. Townley Haas, the 2016 Olympic Trials winner and 2017 World silver medalist, qualified third, .08 behind Zach Apple, who is known more for his 100m. The U.S. hasn’t had a world top 10 swimmer in this event since 2018.

Women’s 100m Backstroke FINAL — 8:35
Regan Smith
, who shattered the world record in 2019, entered Trials ranked third in the nation this year. But she put any doubt to rest by clocking the fourth-fastest time in history in the semifinals. Aside from Smith, the U.S. has four of the other top 10 women in the world since the start of 2019, but only one of them, 2019 World bronze medalist Olivia Smoliga, was within 1.06 seconds of Smith in the semifinals. Kathleen Baker, who had the world record before Smith, missed the final coming off fracturing a bone in her foot in an early May freak walking accident.

Men’s 100m Backstroke FINAL — 8:44
Ryan Murphy
, the world-record holder, has been the fastest American six of the last seven years and qualified first into the final by a comfortable .45. The No. 2 seed, Hunter Armstrong, was a surprise given he entered Trials ranked ninth in the nation since the start of 2019, but the next three qualifiers were within two tenths of him in the semis. Matt Grevers, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist bidding to make it at age 36, qualified sixth and is an underdog.

Women’s 100m Breaststroke FINAL — 8:53
Lilly King outdid Smith, Smith and Murphy by distancing her semifinalists by .65. She is the Olympic champion, world champion and world-record holder and entered Trials maybe the closest woman to a lock for the Olympic team individually aside from Katie Ledecky. Second-fastest in the semifinals: training partner Annie Lazor, who had a yearlong unofficial retirement after placing seventh and 10th in the breaststrokes at the Rio Olympic Trials. Third-fastest: 17-year-old Lydia Jacobybidding to become the first Olympic swimmer from Alaska.

Men’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals — 9:04
All of the major players advanced from morning prelims, led by Zach Harting, who was sixth at 2019 Worlds. Luca Urlando, the fastest American since the start of 2019 by more than a second, was seventh of the 16 qualifiers.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Semifinals — 9:24
Pre-meet favorites Madisyn CoxKathleen Baker and Melanie Margalis all advanced from the morning. Cox missed the 400m IM final. Margalis, the 400m IM favorite, was third in that event to miss the team by one spot. Baker failed to make the final of the 100m back, where she formerly held the world record.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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