By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Tuesday, July 25, 2017
BUDAPEST – Lilly King makes no apologies about it. She’s brash, she’s confident, and she says exactly what’s on her mind.
Last year at the Olympic Games in Rio, King kicked up a firestorm after she made some now-notorious comments about rival Yuliya Efimova’s finger wagging in the semifinals of the women’s 100m breaststroke.
King then went out and promptly won gold in the Olympic final.
On Monday, after the semifinals of the women’s 100m breaststroke at the 17th FINA World Championships, King was at it again. Efimova had just won her heat, missing the world record by one-hundredth of a second.
“I’m always looking at results from the heat before, and I saw a little finger wag – I saw it,” King said with a laugh. “It’s just motivating me more, so that’s OK. It’s going to be a really great race… and I’m excited to see what happens.”
Regardless of what you might think of King’s decorum, she backs up what she says.
King won gold and set a world record in Tuesday’s finals of the 100m breast, touching in 1:04.13, once again vanquishing Efimova, who finished third in 1:05.05.
“I love it,” King said. “I think we get a lot of rivalries like this in other sports – football, basketball, things like that. In swimming, we see a lot of really nice people, and people being really nice. That’s great and all, but that’s not my personality. I’m spunky, I’m confident, and I’m not going to not be myself before a race, so that’s just kind of how it works.”
King was definitely her confident self in the race, jumping out to a quick lead and touching the wall seventeen hundredths of a second ahead of world-record pace. She then held Efimova off in the final 50 meters for the win and the record.
But before she got in the pool Tuesday for warm-ups, it was a different story.
“I was actually freaking out when I got to the pool,” King said. “I was very nervous, but then I got in for warm-up, and I felt a lot better. I felt really, really confident going into the race.
“That race is always going to be a showdown, and always an exciting one, especially after the time Yuliya was able to put up yesterday, which was very, very impressive. It was going to be a dogfight, and I was just hoping I was going to come out on top.”
The former record stood at 1:04.35, set by Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania at Worlds in 2013.
“My first world record,” King said. “I’m very, very excited, and honored to be the only one faster than Rute Meilutyte. She’s been one of my heroes growing up. I’m just really excited. I don’t know how to put it into words.”
King’s teammate, Katie Meili, finished second in 1:05.03.
“I was thrilled with my time, thrilled with the race,” Meili said. “I knew it was going to be an intense race, and I was just hoping to stay in my own lane and do the best I could, and I told myself no matter the outcome, I was going to be proud of myself. I touched the wall, and I was just a little extra happy I got a silver medal.”
Ledecky Wins 1500m Free
King’s gold was one of two for the United States on day 3.
Katie Ledecky won gold in a decisive women’s 1500m freestyle, turning in a time of 15:31.82.
That time was a little more than six seconds off her world record of 15:25.48, which she set at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, but over 19 seconds ahead of the next-closest swimmer, Mireia Belmonte of Spain, who touched in 15:50.89.
Not only was the win her third gold medal this week at Duna Arena, it also marked her 12th career gold medal at a World Championships, the most all-time among women.
Her performance in the 1500 Wednesday was the fourth-fastest of all-time, and she now holds eight of the top 10 swims of all-time in this event.
Though it’s been a while since competitors have been able to challenge her – especially in the longer events – Ledecky says she still finds challenges in the sport.
“It’s not an easy sport,” Ledecky said. “It’s hard every day at practice. There’s a lot of training – more training than in a lot of other sports. Just having fun with it and enjoying the process has always been important, and getting up and doing what I know how to do, which is race.”
Her 1500 was part of a tough double for Ledecky She also swam in the semifinals of the women’s 200m free, where she qualified for tomorrow night’s finals as the top seed in 1:54.69.
“You look up at the scoreboard, you see a time, you see a place, and you kind of turn the focus to the next race and doing what I need to do to get ready for that,” Ledecky said. “I just kind of got in the warm-down pool quickly… and tried to stay in as long as I could before they pulled me for the awards. Then I just got to the ready room.
“I felt like I was in a good mental spot going into the 200. I felt like I could treat it like any other race – like I hadn’t swum the mile beforehand.”
Other Races – Three Silvers and a Bronze
In other races, Townley Haas won a silver medal in the 200m free in 1:45.04. He was competing in his first individual final at a major international meet. Last year at the Olympic Games in Rio, Haas had the fastest split in the field of 32 in the finals of the 800m free relay. That spurred some confidence coming into tonight’s race.
“It kind of showed me that I could go faster, which I kind of knew, but it just proved it to me, and it definitely helped going into the next school year and this summer,” Haas said.
It was Haas’s second medal of the meet after winning gold in the 400m free relay on the first night of competition.
Kathleen Baker repeated her showing at last year’s Olympic Games, winning silver in the women’s 100m backstroke in 58.58. It was the first time an American medaled at worlds in this event since 2013, when Missy Franklin won gold.
Baker’s teammate, Olivia Smoliga, finished fourth in 58.77. They are now the second- and third-fastest American women of all time in this event.
In the men’s 100m back, the last two Olympic champions – Matt Grevers (London 2012) and Ryan Murphy (Rio 2016) – finished with a silver and a bronze behind Hu Jiayu of China. Grevers touched four-hundredths of a second behind Hu in 52.48, followed by Murphy in 52.59.
It marked the third World Championships medal for Grevers in the 100m back. He won gold in 2013, then took bronze in 2015. This is the first World Championships medal in the 100m back for Murphy, who holds the world record in this event.
For Grevers, it was good to be back in the mix, especially after not qualifying for the Olympic Team last year.
“When you’re in the race, you want to win,” Grever said. “Getting that close… I wanted to win. But getting second’s awesome, especially after not making the team last year.
“Being second at Worlds feels good. It feels good to know I’m still very relevant in the sport, and I feel like there’s still more in me. There’s more to come. More time drops to be had, and as long as everyone else in the world isn’t getting too much faster, that’s good news for me to stay in the game.”
For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.