Lilly King, Annie Lazor bonded by promise at Olympic Swimming Trials

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Lilly King, the world’s best breaststroker, qualified for the Olympics earlier this week. That was never in doubt.

But Annie Lazor, who finished third in the 100m breast on Tuesday to miss the team by one spot, had one final shot to make her first Olympics in Friday’s 200m breast final.

She delivered, leading a one-two with King, her training partner the last three years in Bloomington, Indiana. Lazor, at 26, is going to Tokyo along with King, who made it in both breaststrokes. They’re bonded by more than all those laps in the pool.

On April 25, Lazor’s father, David, died suddenly at home.

“He lavished love on his daughter Annie and encouraged her big dreams,” an obituary read. “They traveled together to many swim meets where he was her ardent cheerleader – win or lose, he always let her know that she is so much more than her athletic accomplishments.”

King drove five hours north to the visitation in Michigan. There, she made a promise to Lazor’s mom.

“That she was going to do everything it took to put me on the [Olympic] team, and she was going to pull me through practice every day,” Lazor told NBC Sports before Olympic Trials. “That meant the absolute world to me and to my mom.”

King followed through every day for the next two months. She pushed Lazor as a training partner. She distracted her as a friend with silly stories.

“She’s being authentically Lilly by doing that,” Lazor said of King, known for her brash comments and intimidation on the starting blocks, but also for teaching middle school PE, eating a Happy Meal each week in her college days and wearing Crocs everywhere. “That’s what’s really helped me kind of humanize her the last few months.”

At age 26, Lazor was trying to become the oldest American woman to qualify for her first Olympic team in the pool in 17 years.

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

She failed in her first chance Tuesday night, when King won the 100m breast and qualified to defend her Olympic title in Tokyo. The 17-year-old Alaskan Lydia Jacoby took second.

“I honestly felt kind of bad because I could tell Lilly was excited to make her second Olympic team, but she was just as heartbroken for me,” Lazor said. “That says everything that you need to know about our relationship, about how she wants me to be there with her for those amazing moments.”

Four years ago, Lazor was what they call a swammer. She quit after missing the Rio Olympic team in both breaststrokes, graduated from Auburn and took an operations internship in the Cal-Berkeley athletic department.

Lazor, feeling the itch to give it one more shot, returned to the pool after a year away in 2017. She eventually worked up the guts to ask if she could train with the world’s best breaststroker.

King and her coach, Ray Looze, welcomed Lazor into their training group in April 2018. By the end of the year, Lazor won a world short-course championship.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Lilly,” Lazor said in 2019, according to Swimming World. “Honestly, given what I thought I knew about her prior to that, I was pretty surprised. Lilly, obviously, has somewhat of a reputation. I would think if it were my competitor and she had this program that’s working really well for her, why would you want to share that with her other competitors?”

In 2019, Lazor took 1.86 seconds off her 100m breast personal best. She chopped 4.19 seconds off her best 200m breast time from before leaving the sport. She finished the year ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the world in the events after never previously ranking in the top 10.

“I was good,” in the past, Lazor said on a podcast with retired Australian swimmer Brett Hawke, “but I wasn’t that name that everyone knew.”

After finishing third on Tuesday, Lazor allowed herself to be sad.

“I think it’s pretty valid for me to be upset given I swam the third-fastest time in the world but got third to two other people in my country. That sucks,” Lazor said Thursday. “It was time to turn a new leaf when I woke up this morning.

“This [200m breast] is my best event. I’m really protective over this event.”

In Rio, King failed to make the 200m breast final after winning the 100m breast. She made it a goal to improve in the longer distance. She was asked Thursday night, after swimming the top 200m breast semifinal time, how she prepared over the last year for one of the sport’s toughest events.

“Honestly, just keep racing Annie in practice,” she said. “She is a much, much better long-course breaststroke trainer than I am.”

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final