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Lilly King says the 2024 U.S. Swimming Trials will be her last Olympic chance

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INDIANAPOLIS – The grandeur of a U.S. Olympic Trials, held in an Indiana football stadium, is a fitting send-off to Lilly King’s swimming career.

The Evansville resident did not announce her retirement Friday. But she said these are her final trials and she is not focusing on the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“I’m going to watch in Los Angeles, and I’m happy with that decision,” she said. “I’m not done after this summer, but I won’t continue for another four years either. I’m going to cheer on the team.”

More: 32 local names you need to know at Indy’s USA Swimming Trials.

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The trials begin nine days Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

King is seeded first in the 100-meter breaststroke and second in the 200-meter breaststroke. The top two qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris.

The heats and semi-finals of the 100 are on Sunday and the final on Monday evening. The heats and semifinals of the 200 are Wednesday and the final Thursday evening.

“I can’t wait to see Lilly compete in Indianapolis this weekend in front of a huge crowd in her home state,” Indiana University coach Ray Looze said in a text message. “It has been such an honor to coach her and watch her grow as a person over the past nine years.

“She will already go down as one of the greatest breaststrokers in American history and whatever she does in the future is just the icing on the cake.”

King, 27, has no control over any of her events. Not even after a career with five Olympic medals – including two gold medals from Rio de Janeiro 2016 – and 23 World Cup medals.

But as Carmel swimmer Alex Shackell put it:

‘But she always pulls it off. She loves racing.”

Has King been the queen of brash and bold? You know it. Everyone knows it – especially other swimmers.

“But she always supports it. Somehow she always supports it,” said NBC analyst Rowdy Gaines, the de facto voice of American swimming.

“Did she lose any races? Certainly. It’s very rare to see a Lilly King in my sport now. We see athletes who are very open in what they say and what they talk about. But not much.

“We need Lilly King. Really and truly. I think every country needs a Lilly King. I love her. I can’t wait to watch her.”

King has not won a global gold medal in the 100 breaststroke, her signature event, since the 2019 World Championships. She took bronze at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo and then finished fourth at the 2022 and 2023 world championships. Since the 2017 World Championships, she has held the world record of 1:04.13.

In the sowing times she is first with 1:04.75. Next are defending champion Lydia Jacoby, 1:05.16; Kaitlyn Dobler, 1:05.48; Emma Weber, 1:06.50; Kate Douglass, 1:06.67.

Douglass won a silver medal in the 200 breaststroke at the February 2024 world championships in Doha. She tops the seeds in 2:19.30; followed by King, 2:20.95, and Alex Walsh, 2:22.87 (as of June 1).

An American teammate in Rio, three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel, also an NBC analyst, said King’s confidence affects an entire American team.

“She’s just that hype girl you want,” Beisel said. “She always has good energy and a good atmosphere.

“She’s just real, and I know you all appreciate that too.”

King has assisted the Indiana Sports Corp in bidding for these Olympic Trials, but she has resisted any temptation to be overwhelmed by the magnificence of this one. She compared the scene in this stadium to the one from the movie “Hoosiers,” in which Hickory coach Norman Dale had the players measure the height of the Hinkle Fieldhouse rim — 10 feet, the same as the home gym.

“It’s always 50 yards,” King said.

She declined to compare these Olympic Trials to those of 2016 and 2021, explaining that she was at different stages of life. During the swimming part of her life, at least, she almost touched the wall for the last time.

Contact IndyStar correspondent David Woods at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.