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  • IndyStar | The Indianapolis Star

    Lilly King's Last Ride: Indiana star swimmer says Indy will be her final Olympic trials

    By David Woods,

    2024-06-15
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2VOPRa_0trzWAzU00

    INDIANAPOLIS – Grandeur of a U.S. Olympic Trials held in a football stadium in Indiana is a proper send-off to Lilly King’s swimming career.

    The Evansville native did not announce her retirement Friday. But she said this is her last trials, and she is not aiming at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

    “I will be watching in Los Angeles, and I’m good with that decision,” she said. “I will not be done after this summer, but I will not be going another four years. I’ll be cheering on the team.”

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    The trials open a nine-day run Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    King is seeded first in the 100-meter breaststroke and second in the 200-meter breaststroke. Top two qualify for the Paris Olympics.

    Heats and semifinals of the 100 are Sunday, and the final Monday night. Heats and semis of the 200 are Wednesday, and the final Thursday night.

    “I can’t wait to watch Lilly compete this weekend in Indianapolis in front of a massive crowd in her home state,” Indiana University coach Ray Looze said in a text message. “It’s been such an honor to coach her and watch her grow as a human being over the last nine years.

    “She will already go down as one of the greatest breaststrokers in U.S. history and anything she does moving forward is just icing on the cake.”

    King, 27, is no lock in either of her events. Not even after a career featuring five Olympic medals — including two golds from Rio de Janeiro 2016 — and 23 World Championships medals.

    However, as Carmel swimmer Alex Shackell put it:

    “She always pulls it off, though. She likes to race.”

    Has King been the queen of brash and bold? You know it. Everyone knows it — and especially other swimmers.

    “But she always backs it up. One way or the other, she always backs it up,” said NBC analyst Rowdy Gaines, the de facto voice of American swimming.

    “Has she lost races? Sure. It’s very rare to see a Lilly King now in my sport. We see athletes that are very open in what they’re saying and what they’re talking about. But not many.

    “We need Lilly King. We really do. I think every country needs a Lilly King. I love her. I can’t wait to watch her.”

    King has not won a global gold medal in the 100 breaststroke, her signature event, since the 2019 World Championships. She took bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, then placed fourth at the 2022 and 2023 worlds. She has held the world record of 1:04.13 since the 2017 worlds.

    In seeding times, she is first at 1:04.75. Next are defending Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby, 1:05.16; Kaitlyn Dobler, 1:05.48; Emma Weber, 1:06.50; Kate Douglass, 1:06.67.

    Douglass won a silver medal in the 200 breaststroke in the February 2024 worlds at Doha. She tops the seeds at 2:19.30; followed by King, 2:20.95, and Alex Walsh, 2:22.87 (from June 1).

    A U.S. teammate at Rio, three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel, also an NBC analyst, said King’s confidence influences an entire American team.

    “She’s just that hype girl that you want,” Beisel said. “She’s always good energy, good vibes.

    “She’s just real, and I know all of you appreciate that, too.”

    King has assisted the Indiana Sports Corp in bidding for these Olympic Trials, but she has resisted any temptation to be overwhelmed by the splendor of this one. She compared the scene in this stadium to that of the movie “Hoosiers,” in which Hickory coach Norman Dale had the players measure the height of the Hinkle Fieldhouse rim — 10 feet, same as the home gym.

    “It’s always 50 meters,” King said.

    She declined to compare this Olympic Trials to the ones from 2016 and 2021, explaining she has been at different stages of life. For the swimming part of her life, at least, she is close to touching the wall for the last time.

    Contact IndyStar correspondent David Woods at dwoods1411@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.

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