She called out a Russian doper. She won Olympic gold. She set world records.
Lilly King has had extraordinary moments in her career, but none more epic than Thursday night at Budapest, Hungary.
King, swimming at what her coach estimated at “80%,” burst from fifth place after 150 meters and came back to win the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the World Championships.
Also, Drew Kibler became the first Carmel swimmer to win a long course world or Olympic medal, leading off a U.S. foursome that won the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay.
King’s world gold was her ninth, a total exceeded by only three women: Katie Ledecky (18), Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel (11 each). King became the first U.S. swimmer to win career golds at 50, 100 and 200 meters at any stroke at a World Championships.
Her time was 2:22.41.
Australia’s Jenna Strauch, fastest in the semifinals, was silver medalist in 2:23.04. University of Virginia’s Kate Douglass, who broke King’s American record in the 200-yard breaststroke at March’s NCAA Championships, took bronze in 2:23.20.
"What a great moment for Lilly King,” NBC analyst Rowdy Gaines said in the immediate aftermath.
King was silver medalist in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics behind a world record set by Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa. Schoenmaker skipped this world meet.
“I guess I’m a distance swimmer now, so that kind of stinks,” King joked in an Olympic Channel interview.
King had long been queen of the 100 breaststroke, but she was third at Tokyo last year and fourth at Budapest on Monday. She has gone out fast and built a lead.
She deviated from usual strategy this time. It worked.
“I turned and saw everyone coming off the wall,” King said. “I knew today was going to be about racing, and I was going to have to have something left for that last 50.”
Douglass led through 150 meters. King was 0.49 behind her and 0.32 behind Strauch. King’s final 50 was timed in 36.36, or nearly a full second faster than everyone else.
“That is unheard of her,” said Indiana University coach Ray Looze, who earlier stated King was doing the best she could in an impaired condition.
King has two events remaining: 50 breaststroke (a non-Olympic event) and 400 medley relay. She could become the first to win a breaststroke event at three successive worlds.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Kibler (1:45.54) and University of Texas teammate Carson Foster (1:45.04) combined with Trenton Julian (1:45.31) and Kieran Smith (1:44.35) for a time of 7:00.24. It was the United States' first world title in the relay since 2013.
Australia (7:03.50) and Great Britain (7:04.00) were far behind in winning silver and bronze.
It was a redemptive victory for Kibler and the Americans. Last year Team USA was shut out of the medals for the first time in any relay at any Olympic Games.
"A lot of us have been talking about this for, really, since the day we got that fourth-place finish," Kibler said. "That was pretty tough for Kieran and I. I know these guys would have felt the same.
"Its something we strive for in America. We expect nothing but the best. It feels pretty good to be back on track. We're just getting started. We're on world record hunt still."
The United States’ world record of 6:58.55 stands from 2009 and the supersuit era. Only Britain at Tokyo (6:58.58) and the United States at the 2012 London Olympics (6:59.70) have gone faster in textile suits than this 2022 team.
Kibler was third after his leadoff, or .24 behind South Korea’s Hwang Sun-woo, the silver medalist in the 200 freestyle. Kibler had finished fourth, just .03 from a bronze medal.
He was omitted from the team winning gold in the 400 freestyle relay Saturday. USA Swimming released a statement saying COVID protocol travel delays led to pulling Kibler out.
Elsewhere, Ryan Murphy of the United States won a gold medal in the men’s 200 backstroke in 1:54.52.
Torri Huske won a bronze in the 100 freestyle, making her the first swimmer to win four medals at these World Championships. She also qualified for Friday’s final of the 50 freestyle, setting an American record of 25.38.
IU’s Tomer Frankel was 16th in semifinals of the 100 butterfly in 51.83. He was .02 off his own Israeli record.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Lilly King bursts from 5th place to win gold in 200 breaststroke