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.
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 Jacoby, bidding 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 Cox, Kathleen 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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