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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U.S. women’s rugby team qualifies for 2024 Paris Olympics as medal contender

Cheta Emba

The U.S. women’s rugby team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by clinching a top-four finish in this season’s World Series.

Since rugby was re-added to the Olympics in 2016, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished fifth, sixth, sixth and ninth at the Games.

The U.S. women are having their best season since 2018-19, finishing second or third in all five World Series stops so far and ranking behind only New Zealand and Australia, the winners of the first two Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournaments.

The U.S. also finished fourth at last September’s World Cup.

Three months after the Tokyo Games, Emilie Bydwell was announced as the new U.S. head coach, succeeding Olympic coach Chris Brown.

Soon after, Tokyo Olympic co-captain Abby Gustaitis was cut from the team.

Jaz Gray, who led the team in scoring last season and at the World Cup, missed the last three World Series stops after an injury.

The U.S. men are ranked ninth in this season’s World Series and will likely need to win either a North American Olympic qualifier this summer or a last-chance global qualifier in June 2024 to make it to Paris.

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Oscar Pistorius denied parole, hasn’t served enough time

Oscar Pistorius
File photo

Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was denied parole Friday and will have to stay in prison for at least another year and four months after it was decided that he had not served the “minimum detention period” required to be released following his murder conviction for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp 10 years ago.

The parole board ruled that Pistorius would only be able to apply again in August 2024, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said in a short, two-paragraph statement. It was released soon after a parole hearing at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre prison where Pistorius is being held.

The board cited a new clarification on Pistorius’ sentence that was issued by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal just three days before the hearing, according to the statement. Still, legal experts criticized authorities’ decision to go ahead with the hearing when Pistorius was not eligible.

Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, are “relieved” with the decision to keep Pistorius in prison but are not celebrating it, their lawyer told The Associated Press.

“They can’t celebrate because there are no winners in this situation. They lost a daughter and South Africa lost a hero,” lawyer Tania Koen said, referring to the dramatic fall from grace of Pistorius, once a world-famous and highly-admired athlete.

The decision and reasoning to deny parole was a surprise but there has been legal wrangling over when Pistorius should be eligible for parole because of the series of appeals in his case. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, in 2014 but the case went through a number of appeals before Pistorius was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017.

Serious offenders must serve at least half their sentence to be eligible for parole in South Africa. Pistorius’ lawyers had previously gone to court to argue that he was eligible because he had served the required portion if they also counted periods served in jail from late 2014 following his culpable homicide conviction.

The lawyer handling Pistorius’ parole application did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

June Steenkamp attended Pistorius’ hearing inside the prison complex to oppose his parole. The parents have said they still do not believe Pistorius’ account of their daughter’s killing and wanted him to stay in jail.

Pistorius, who is now 36, has always claimed he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law student, in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder in his home. He shot four times with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a closed toilet cubicle door in his bathroom, where Steenkamp was, hitting her multiple times. Pistorius claimed he didn’t realize his girlfriend had got out of bed and gone to the bathroom.

The Steenkamps say they still think he is lying and killed her intentionally after a late-night argument.

Lawyer Koen had struck a more critical tone when addressing reporters outside the prison before the hearing, saying the Steenkamps believed Pistorius could not be considered to be rehabilitated “unless he comes clean” over the killing.

“He’s the killer of their daughter. For them, it’s a life sentence,” Koen said before the hearing.

June Steenkamp had sat grim-faced in the back seat of a car nearby while Koen spoke to reporters outside the prison gates ahead of the hearing. June Steenkamp and Koen were then driven into the prison in a Department of Corrections vehicle. June Steenkamp made her submission to the parole board in a separate room to Pistorius and did not come face-to-face with her daughter’s killer, Koen said.

Barry Steenkamp did not travel for the hearing because of poor health but a family friend read out a statement to the parole board on his behalf, the parents’ lawyer said.

Pistorius was once hailed as an inspirational figure for overcoming the adversity of his disability, before his murder trial and sensational downfall captivated the world.

Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was a baby because of a congenital condition and he walks with prosthetics. He went on to become a double-amputee runner and multiple Paralympic champion who made history by competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, running on specially designed carbon-fiber blades.

Pistorius’ conviction eventually led to him being sent to the Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious. He was moved to the Atteridgeville prison in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners.

There have only been glimpses of his life in prison, with reports claiming he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking and was unrecognizable from the elite athlete he once was.

He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor, and has reportedly been running bible classes for other inmates.

Pistorius’ father, Henke Pistorius, told the Pretoria News newspaper before the hearing that his family hoped he would be home soon.

“Deep down, we believe he will be home soon,” Henke Pistorius said, “but until the parole board has spoken the word, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

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