Lilly King is a breaststroke specialist who hopes to start a journey that ends in two Olympic medals. The 19-year-old is swimming for Team USA in the 100-meter and 200-meter women’s breaststroke. It’s the Indiana University student’s first time at the Olympics and has some big shoes to fill. Rebecca Soni won gold in the 200-meter and silver in the 100-meter at the previous two Olympics for Team USA.
King finished in first place in her heat for the 100m breaststroke with 1:05.78. She won the final with a time of 1:04.93, a new Olympic record.
Here’s a look at King’s life and career.
1. King Swam the Fastest Time of the Year in the 100 meter at the Olympic Trials
King is fast when it comes to the 100 meter. At the Omaha Olympic trials in July, she finished the race in 1:05.20, the fastest time in the world for 2016. She’s the favorite in that race and the final for that is on Monday.
However, King has needed to work hard to get better at the longer 200 meter race. Her fastest time was 2:24.03, which she set during the Olympic trials semifinals. However, that’s just 16th in the world, Indy Star notes. She’s confident that she can finish in 2:20 though.
“I’m not great with predictions, but she’ll get better,” Ray Looze, IU’s head swimming coach, told the Indy Star. “Without question she’ll be better by Rio … We tapered for this meet. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
She previously set American records at the NCAA Championships in March.
2. Swimming Is in Her Blood – Her Mother Swam & Her Younger Brother Swims
King was destined to become an athlete. According to her Team USA Swimming profile, her father, Mark, ran track and cross-country at Indiana State, where her mother, Ginny, also swam. Her younger brother, Alex, is also swimming and runs track.
Her parents expected King to make the Olympic team, even buying tickets to Rio a month before the Omaha trials, reports the Indy Star.
“I still try not to get choked up when I think about it,” Ginny King told the Indy Star. “To see your kid benefit from all the hard work and long hours she has put in is just a fantastic feeling. There’s nothing better.”
3. King Says She Was a Slow Swimmer Until Age 12
King has been swimming since she was only 7 years old and it took awhile for her to pick up speed. In a News-Sentinel interview, she said that she wasn’t really fast until she turned 12.
“My mom swam in college, and I wanted to do what she did. That’s why I started swimming,” the Evansville, Indiana native said. “I vaguely remember my first meet when I was 7. I know I was really slow and couldn’t get down the pool. I was slow until about 12. It was a long process.”
She let other swimmers put pressure on themselves, but King likes to have fun when it comes to swimming. It’s a method that has proven successful, although she still has to perform well in Rio.
“Lilly is a good swimmer. She’s a competitor,” Looze told the News-Sentinel. “A lot of our athletes have learned how important confidence is. Lilly is a very confident person. She expects to do well. Thinking you’ll be successful is the most important thing. You have to believe in yourself. That’s her best attribute.”
4. She Loves Dogs & Drinks Coke Before Every Race
King loves dogs. She told Team USA that if she wasn’t a swimmer, she would own 10 dogs. She only has one though ,a beagle named Sunshine. She told the Evansville Courier-Press after the Omaha trials that a therapy dog named Mojo helped her get in the zone for the 200 meter.
“I guess semis I kind of got my mojo back a little bit and actually this morning, funny story, I was playing with the (therapy) dogs and one of the dogs name was Mojo,” she said.
This will also come as delightful news for Coca-Cola. She loves Coke and drinks one before every race. In March, King wrote on Twitter that the “World of Coke is my new favorite place,” referring to the Coke attraction in Atlanta.
“She also likes Happy Meals on Tuesdays,” Looze told IUHoosiers.com. “Most athletes are creatures of habit, but Lilly has got a confidence that is second to none. When she stands on the blocks, she’s unafraid of anybody”
5. King Isn’t the Only IU Swimmer in Rio, as Cody Miller Is Competing Too
Lilly King and Cody Miller, who is competing in the 100 meter men’s breaststroke, are the first IU swimmers to make the Olympics in 40 years, the Indy Star notes. Miller was born with a lung deformity called Pectus Excavatum.
Miller made it to the finals for the 100 meter men’s breaststroke with a personal best time of 59.05.
Marwan El Kamash, who swims for Egypt, is also at Indiana University.