Team USA swimmer Lilly King became an instant celebrity after she nabbed two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and she’s looking to add three more medals to her collection at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As the 24-year-old compete during the 100-meter breaststroke, 200-meter breaststroke, and the 4X100 medley relay, viewers can’t help but wonder about the elite swimmer’s personal life.
While King is a famously confident and outspoken competitor, her finger-wagging to Russian rival Yulia Efimova in Rio made her a viral superstar, she keeps her private life private.
The Indiana University graduate is not married, and if she’s dating anyone, King has masterfully kept the relationship out of the public eye. However, if King does have a romantic partner, they would need to love both of Kings’ personalities, as she described them both to Yahoo! News.
Away from the pool, King says she’s a “goody, king of nerdy” woman who loves dog videos. But inside the pool, the seven-time world champ calls herself a “high-level assassin.”
“I’m literally the complete opposite person,” King admits. “And I’m so nasty. When I feel like I need to e that nasty person, and that evil competitor, it’s almost like just a flip of the switch, and something comes over me, and I’ll do literally anything to win the race.”
King’s confidence may intimidate anyone looking to date her, which is something her parents, Ginny and Mark King, are aware of. “Growing up, she wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea,” Ginny said, laughing along with her husband Mark. “She’s not for everybody,” he added. “She’s a lot.”
One person who adores King’s fiery nature is U.S. head coach Greg Meehan. “That is who she is. That is her personality. She is competitive. She is someone who we want on Team USA.”
King Struggled With Her Celebrity Status After Rio
Like many Olympic champions, after the excitement of Rio, and being thrust into the spotlight, King admittedly had an identity crisis.
The IndyStar reported in 2017, “It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her.”
King’s grades were flailing and she was making silly mistakes in competition. When Indiana University coach Ray Looze confronted King, who was 20 years old at the time, “She started talking, and it all came out.” She bawled her eyes out, which turned out to be an incredibly healing experience.
“I think once I let it all out, I was a lot better,” King said. “Most of my teammates knew what was going on. I’m pretty good at hiding things when they’re not quite right.”
Now, King has the most uplifting outlook on life, especially when it comes to competition. She told Swimming World Magazine in April:
I never think of what’s going to go wrong in my racing. Never. I only think of the best possible scenario. When I visualize my races, I never think of what can go wrong. I only think of the race I want to swim. For this summer, I’m trying not to think of what could go wrong, and only think of the best-case scenario.
No Woman Has Ever Won Back-to-Back Olympic Gold Medals in the 100-Meter Breaststroke
While King remains the heavy favorite to win gold during the 100-meter breaststroke in Tokyo, no woman has ever won this contest in back-to-back Olympics.
If the pressure to make Olympic history is getting to King, she said it feels no different from when she competed in Rio.
“I kind of felt like that last time, even though a lot of other people didn’t feel like that, so I am just kind of riding the wave I’ve been riding for the last five years,” King said, as reported by IndyStar.