Lilly King, Ryan Murphy add new titles to gold collections at swimming worlds


BUDAPEST — Lilly King has now won gold in every breaststroke event in her world swimming championships career. Ryan Murphy is now an individual world champion for the first time.

The U.S. added a third gold Thursday in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, a year after placing fourth in Tokyo, the first time the U.S. failed to make a relay podium in Olympic history.

King won her first 200m breast title, clocking 2 minutes, 22.41 seconds at the Duna Arena. The 2016 Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100m breast prevailed by .63 of a second over Australian Jenna Strauch. American Kate Douglass took bronze, a year after bagging Olympic 200m individual medley bronze.

“I guess I’m a distance swimmer now, which kind of stinks for me,” joked King, who came back from fifth place at the 150-meter mark. “Welcoming this new chapter of my career. … I think this was my coach’s master plan all along.”

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King followed her breakthrough 2016 Olympic gold with world titles in the 50m and 100m breast events in 2017 and 2019. In Tokyo, she earned bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m.

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, who lowered the world record to 2:18.95 to win the Olympic 200m breast in Tokyo, skipped worlds to prioritize the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

King, fourth in the 100m earlier this week, was competing at 80 percent, said her coach in Indiana, Ray Looze, according to reports.

“She’s doing the best she can,” Looze said Tuesday after the 100m breast, according to the Indianapolis Star. “It doesn’t take a genius to kind of know what’s going on, given the world around us.”

King said after Wednesday’s semifinals that she was feeling better and expected that to continue for the rest of the meet.

“Any time I have a bad swim, I feel like I’ve got a lot of haters out there,” King said of the 100m breast. “Just to be able to prove them wrong.”

She has one individual event left, the 50m breast, a non-Olympic event where she holds the world record. She can become the first woman to win a world championships breaststroke event three consecutive times.

Murphy captured his biggest individual title since sweeping the backstrokes at the 2016 Olympics, taking the 200m back in 1:54.52, topping Brit Luke Greenbank by .64. American Shaine Casas earned bronze in his first long-course world championships.

After checking off that box, Murphy said what’s left to accomplish is to lower his personal bests from 2016 and 2018.

“I’ve had an interesting career,” said Murphy, who just missed the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships teams while in high school, had the meet of his life at the 2016 Olympics and six years later is back on top. “Being able to come into something that I have a talent for, try to be the best in the world, that never gets old.”

Murphy previously won four individual silver or bronze medals, plus four gold medals in relays, among the last four world championships.

Earlier at these worlds, he clocked his fastest 100m back in four years to earn silver behind Italian Thomas Ceccon, who broke Murphy’s world record.

Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who swept the backstrokes at the Tokyo Olympics (including an Olympic record 1:53.27 in the 200m), isn’t at worlds due to the nation’s ban for the war in Ukraine.

In Thursday’s last final, Drew KiblerCarson FosterTrenton Julian and Kieran Smith combined to win the 4x200m free by a comfortable 3.26 seconds over Australia. All four men won their first world title. Their time would have earned silver in Tokyo.

“Kieran and I were actually just looking at a photo taken right after we touched fourth at the Olympics last year, and it’s a pretty defeating photo,” Kibler said. “We were looking at it just before we came here, like, ‘We’re not going to experience that again.'”

Also Thursday, Australian Mollie O’Callaghan surged past American Torri Huske to win the women’s 100m free. Huske took bronze, her fourth medal this week, behind Swede Sarah Sjostrom, who earned her 17th career individual worlds medal, solo second all time behind Michael Phelps (20).

Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook added a world title to his Olympic title and world record in the men’s 200m breast.

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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IOC recommends how Russia, Belarus athletes can return as neutrals

Thomas Bach

The IOC updated its recommendations to international sports federations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. Now, it’s up to those federations to decide if and how they will reinstate the athletes as 2024 Olympic qualifying heats up.

The IOC has not made a decision on the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes for the Paris Games and will do so “at the appropriate time,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

Most international sports federations for Olympic sports banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year following IOC recommendations to do so after the invasion of Ukraine.

Bach was asked Tuesday what has changed in the last 13 months that led to the IOC updating its recommendations.

He reiterated previous comments that, after the invasion and before the initial February 2022 recommendations, some governments refused to issue visas for Russians and Belarusians to compete, and other governments threatened withdrawing funding from athletes who competed against Russians and Belarusians. He also said the safety of Russians and Belarusians at competitions was at risk at the time.

Bach said that Russians and Belarusians have been competing in sports including tennis, the NHL and soccer (while not representing their countries) and that “it’s already working.”

“The question, which has been discussed in many of these consultations, is why should what is possible in all these sports not be possible in swimming, table tennis, wrestling or any other sport?” Bach said.

Bach then read a section of remarks that a United Nations cultural rights appointee made last week.

“We have to start from agreeing that these states [Russia and Belarus] are going to be excluded,” Bach read, in part. “The issue is what happens with individuals. … The blanket prohibition of Russian and Belarusian athletes and artists cannot continue. It is a flagrant violation of human rights. The idea is not that we are going to recognize human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behavior. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated on the basis of their passport.”

The IOC’s Tuesday recommendations included not allowing “teams of athletes” from Russia and Belarus to return.

If Russia continues to be excluded from team sports and team events, it could further impact 2024 Olympic qualification.

The international basketball federation (FIBA) recently set an April 28 deadline to decide whether to allow Russia to compete in an Olympic men’s qualifying tournament. For women’s basketball, the draw for a European Olympic qualifying tournament has already been made without Russia.

In gymnastics, the ban has already extended long enough that, under current rules, Russian gymnasts cannot qualify for men’s and women’s team events at the Paris Games, but can still qualify for individual events if the ban is lifted.

Gymnasts from Russia swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Tokyo, where Russians in all sports competed for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than for Russia due to punishment for the nation’s doping violations. There were no Russian flags or anthems, conditions that the IOC also recommends for any return from the current ban for the war in Ukraine.

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said last week that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from track and field for the “foreseeable future.”

World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, diving and water polo, said after the IOC’s updated recommendations that it will continue to “consider developments impacting the situation” of Russian and Belarusian athletes and that “further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

The IOC’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and their governments remain in place, including disallowing international competitions to be held in those countries.

On Monday, Ukraine’s sports minister said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly urges” that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.

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