Lilly King finishes off World Championships with third gold medal

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Thanks to Lilly King, the U.S. swim team closed out an historically dominant World Championships in golden splendor Saturday night at Budapest, Hungary.

King gave the Americans the lead for good, and they went on to win the women’s 400-meter medley relay in 3:53.78.

Australia took silver in 3:54.25 and Canada bronze in 3:55.01.

Although King raced at what Indiana University coach Ray Looze called “80%,” she came away with a third gold medal of the meet. She won the 200-meter breaststroke Thursday and added another gold from prelims of the 400 mixed medley relay.

The 25-year-old Evansville swimmer raised her career total to 10 world golds. Among women, only Katie Ledecky (19), Missy Franklin (11) and Simone Manuel (11) have more.

More: Lilly King swims to improbable world title, and Drew Kibler is Carmel's 1st gold medalist

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom also has 10 golds, including one from Saturday’s 50-meter freestyle.

King had the fastest 100 breaststroke, 1:05.89, to push Team USA ahead of Canada, which led after one leg. King was fourth in the 100 breaststroke but was more than a second faster in the relay than the gold medalist, Italy’s Benedetta Pilato (1:07.00).

For the Americans, Regan Smith swam backstroke, Torri Huske butterfly and Claire Curzan freestyle. The medals were Huske’s sixth and Curzan’s fifth of the World Championships.

King finished seventh in Saturday’s 50 breaststroke in 30.40, a full second off her championships record. She won the previous two world titles, in 2019 and 2017.

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Lilly King (USA) in the women's 200m breaststroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Lilly King (USA) in the women's 200m breaststroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

In a pandemic-delayed World Championships depleted by absence of some of the sport’s biggest stars, the United States won a record 45 medals, 17 of them gold. Previous record was 38 by the United States at Budapest in 2017.

Carmel’s Drew Kibler came away with two medals, and could have won four.

He earned a bronze Friday in the 400 mixed freestyle relay with a 48.26 second leg of prelims. The United States was third in the final. That followed his gold medal from Thursday’s 800 freestyle relay.

Kibler was fourth in the 200 freestyle, .03 from a medal. He was scheduled to swim the 400 freestyle relay, won by the United States, but was omitted from the team for what USA Swimming called a COVID protocol travel delay.

The Americans’ other gold on the final night was by Justin Ress in the 50 backstroke. He was originally disqualified but later reinstated after teammate Hunter Armstrong was elevated to gold.

Ledecky became the first swimmer to win five straight in any event, taking the 800 freestyle Friday in 8:08.04. It was her fourth gold medal of the meet and 19th overall, second to Michael Phelps’ 26. Ledecky, 25, is unbeaten in the 800 freestyle since age 13, has won more than 50 in a row and owns the 27 fastest times in history.

Bobby Finke, gold medalist in the men’s 800 freestyle, set an American record of 14:36.70 in earning silver in the 1,500 freestyle.

Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at david.woods@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Lilly King polishes off World Championships 2022 with third gold medal