Lilly King talked the talk when she called out Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova on Sunday night, and then she walked the walk when the two met in the 100-meter breaststroke final Monday night.
After giving Efimova a finger wag as she watched her Russian counterpart celebrate her heat victory, King became an overnight sensation as a precocious young swimmer eager to take a stand against doping in her sport. Efimova a part of the Russian contingent with systemic doping issues and has failed two drug tests herself in recent years.
— BigHeadSports (@BigHeadSports) August 8, 2016
King was America’s new favorite swimmer. From her hometown Evansville, Indiana, car wash to social media, America was voicing its support for her quest to beat the cheating Russian.
When the final race came around Monday night, King was more than ready to back up her words.
Not only did King beat Efimova, she also took home a gold medal and notched an Olympic record time to boot. It was the first gold for an American woman in the event in 16 years. Efimova took silver and American teammate Katie Meili won bronze.
King’s accomplishment did not go unnoticed on social media, and her victory was met with an outpouring of support and jubilation.
Everyone when Lily King beat the Russian pic.twitter.com/QXyrlCkD8H
— Julimayne (@julie_momo) August 9, 2016
— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) August 9, 2016
This Lily King vs Russian swimmer thing is giving me a heavy 'Rocky IV' vibe
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) August 9, 2016
After the event King was again asked about her feelings on doping in the sport, and she doubled down on her earlier comments, as she refused to hold a double standard for fellow Team USA members Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.
The win set off a new round of questions for King concerning her feelings about athletes who’ve been caught doping. When asked if she felt track star Justin Gatlin should be on Team USA in Rio, King didn’t mince words, saying, “Do I think somebody who has been caught for doping should be on the team? No, I don’t.”
Although her stance against her American teammates has not been as universally loved, King is the breakout star of these Olympics and at only 19 years old, should be in the spotlight for many years to come.