The Untold Truth Of Olympic Swimmer Lilly King

To some, Olympic swimming might be one of the duller sports to watch while they’re kicking back in their La-Z-Boy recliners, but they’re probably just wildly misinterpreting the competition. Swimming takes muscle, speed, and endurance that prevent most of us from even counting laps at our local recreation centers. To the rest of us, the merit of the sport shines, and we’re ready to get another eyeful of competitive swimming goodness as the 2021 Tokyo Olympics play out this year. With such an event, the athletes driving the sport dog-paddle their way to the media spotlight. And whose name says “women’s Olympic swimming” more than American Lilly King?

King is a lightning-quick swimmer with a personality that has garnered her more attention than most of her contemporaries. She seems like she can be a bit odd from time to time when her excitement for her sport or her quirky way of doing things gets captured on camera, but that just makes fans love her more. Just like with every athlete out there, King has aspects of her person and her life that are more interesting than others, and there’s a good chance you don’t know most of the more titillating details. Don’t worry. You’re about to learn them. Here are the interesting details that often are overlooked when it comes to Olympic swimmer Lilly King.

She already has two gold medals

The Olympic gold is the epitome of what every athlete struggles to accomplish throughout their career. A world title is pretty neat, but there’s one for every one of the many, many leagues out there, meaning there are multiple world-title holders in each category of most sports. Ah, but winning the gold medal at the Olympics shows you’ve competed with the best of each country, making you the best of the best. A true world champion. These athletes can only compete once every four years, so with years to train their Olympic strategy, the competition is seriously tough. Even so, Olympic swimmer Lilly King has already taken home two of the coveted trophies.

As you’ve rightly gathered, the 2021 Tokyo games aren’t King’s first aquatic rodeo. She competed in what the official Olympics website says was three events in Rio De Janeiro during the 2016 games, where she took home the number one slot in two. That would be the 100-meter breaststroke and as part of a four-person team in the 4 x 100-meter relay. She didn’t do so hot in her third event though, coming in 12th during the 200-meter breaststroke. But hey, nobody can win all the time, and two out of three is a serious feat when you’re competing against the best the world has to offer.

She was a slow swimmer until age 12

While competing in, and winning, three events during the 2017 FINA World Championships, King, according to Indiana University, set four world records. And all of that happened after she’d already helped set a relay world record in 2016. Not to mention the junior world record she’d set when she was still years away from competing at the collegiate level. Needless to say (but we’re going to say it anyway), Olympic swimmer Lilly King is about as fast as they come, but the aquatic speedster hasn’t always been the quickest swimmer.

Apparently, before King grew into one of the gangly, awkward pupas we’ve collectively decided to call “teenagers,” she was a notoriously slow swimmer. According to an interview King had with the News Sentinel (found via Heavy), she started swimming competitively at age seven, but she was so “slow” she couldn’t “get down the pool.” King’s mother was a competitive swimmer in college herself, you see, and the young future Olympian wasn’t going to give up on a hobby that was locked away somewhere in her genes. At around 12, she says, is when her speed finally kicked in. Since then — well — she’s made it to the Olympic Games twice in a row. It just goes to show that anyone can improve if they put their mind to it, but it takes something seriously special to rise to Lilly King’s level.

Glad the 2020 Olympics were postponed

The world was shocked, though they really shouldn’t have been, when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were pushed back. It was a seemingly unorthodox move by the International Olympic Committee, but given that COVID-19 was ravaging the planet with no sign it would stop before the thousands of people gathered from nearly every corner of the world to act as one, giant international plague rat, it was probably the right call. And, you know, Olympic gold medalist Lilly King agrees. Not solely because of the pandemic or anything. She has her own reasons why she was glad the Olympics were postponed.

According to the IndyStar, the athlete had to make some unorthodox moves of her own in order to continue her training during the pandemic. Pools all across the United States were closing their doors, and it didn’t matter one bit that King was a gold medalist. She had to find somewhere else to train, and that “somewhere” turned out to be a pond in Bloomington, Indiana. With all the hindrances to her training, it’s no wonder King admitted to Fox59 that she wasn’t feeling “mentally ready” to compete in the 2020 Games, had they gone as planned. Instead, all she could think about was the time she’d get off training when the competition was over and done with. No need to fret though. These days, King seems to be ready to go. It’s amazing what can change in a year.

She has an unusual diet

With Olympic swimmer Lilly King being one of the best professional athletes in her sport, you’d expect her to eat a strict, healthy diet. You know, the kind other professional athletes are constantly endorsing because, despite it not being as satisfying as crushing a 12-pack of tacos, it helps them build the physique needed to compete in the highest arenas. King’s diet? Not so much.

During a Fox59 interview, King reveals she ate nearly all of her meals during the 2016 Rio Olympics at the same place, a place where no athlete should ever eat if they’re in the middle of the biggest competition on Earth. We’re talking about the French fry-slinging, golden arch-having McDonald’s. The athlete says she didn’t have any other option because she found most of the other food in Olympic Village disgusting, and what’s a lady to do? So she chowed down at a restaurant that always feels like home. Coming up to the 2021 games, King swears she’s eased off the Mickey D’s, but she hasn’t entirely cut it out. One meal per week won’t likely hinder her performance anyway.

The Olympian also practices another dietary oddity. Most swimmers prep for their heats with a coffee to get their energies flowing, but as USA Today explains, King options for a Coke since she doesn’t like coffee. Some people can drink soda, eat fast food, and still compete for the gold. It’s unfair, but it’s true.

She's famous for a finger wag

You’d think Lilly King would be famous for winning multiple world titles in swimming or — just maybe — taking home two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics, and that’s probably the case for all of the competitive swimming fans out there. But for the rest of us, King’s fame comes from her infamous finger wag.

Here’s what went down: Three-time Russian Olympian Yulia Efimova had just won her heat during the semifinals for the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2016 Games, according to The New Yorker, when in front of the camera, she wagged her finger at the camera to send a clear, cocky message to her rivals, which included King. King was then filmed mocking her finger wag with one of her own in the waiting room, but the athlete wasn’t just making fun of the Russian swimmer’s ego; she had a more serious issue with Efimova than poor sportsmanship.

In 2013, the Russian athlete was caught using steroids. Later, she was found to be using other performance-enhancing drugs as well, which led to a temporary ban from the sport. She then appealed the ban and was allowed to compete in the Olympics anyway. Well, King isn’t exactly a fan of cheaters. As she says in a USA Today interview, the swimmer believes any athlete caught using drugs should be banned from the sport for good. So, not only was the finger wag meaningful to King, so was her win against Efimova.

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