Tokyo Vision: Lilly King Bids To Write Name In History Books With 100 Breast Defense

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Tokyo Vision: Lilly King Bids To Write Name In History Books With 100 Breast Defense

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not shaken the world, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be unfolding right now, titles and podium finishes earned by the finest athletes from around the world. Instead, we are in a competition lull and hopeful that the Games will be held next summer, with COVID-19 neutralized.

As we reach the nine days over which the swimming competition of a delayed Olympiad would have taken place, Swimming World is taking a glimpse at what might have unfolded this summer, had the Olympics not been postponed. Following the official schedule, we offer our virtual fields of eight finalists for each event and take a brief look at how the racing might have panned out until a few strokes away from decision and a result that will not be known until July/August 2021.

League of Olympic Legends: Leisel Jones Tops 100 Breaststroke Podium With Heyns & King

Event: Women’s 100m Breaststroke
World Record: Lilly King (2017) – 1:04.13

Historical Note #1: Ruta Meilutyte became Lithuania’s first Olympic swimming medallist when she won a shock gold at London 2012. She was just 15 when she won the title and triumphed over a vastly more experienced field including 2008 gold and silver medallists Leisel Jones and Rebecca Soni.

Historical Note #2: No woman has yet successfully defended the 100m breaststroke title. Leisel Jones of Australia won three medals – one of each colour – after first taking silver aged 15 at Sydney 2000. She then won bronze in Athens four years later before finally reaching the top of the podium at Beijing 2008.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Reona Aoki – Japan
  • Arianna Castiglioni – Italy
  • Yuliya Efimova – Russia
  • Lilly King – United States
  • Annie Lazor – United States
  • Molly Renshaw – Great Britain
  • Tatjana Schoenmaker – South Africa
  • Yu Jingyao – China

The Race


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The rivalry between Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova had been portrayed as a grudge match since Rio 2016 when the American wagged her finger at her rival after the Russian put up a number one finger following her semifinal win. King has made no bones about her contempt for those towing drugs positives and she has had the better of the meetings between the pair over two lengths.

Come major competition and King regularly posts 1:04 – including the 1:04.13 world record she set at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in 2017. As is customary, she got a flying start and streaked away down the opening 50 to turn first ahead with clear daylight to Efimova.

However, Efimova started making inroads into her lead and behind her were a pack of women battling to break into the top two. Among them were Reona Aoki, the 2018 Pan Pacific bronze medallist in her home town of Tokyo who had missed out on third at last year’s World Championships by 0.04secs, Commonwealth champion Tatjana Schoenmaker, King’s fellow American Annie Lazor and Yu Jingyao of China.

King appeared to be in control despite Efimova slowly catching but there was little to choose between the chasing pack as they led the charge. Who would make the podium? Who would be crowned champion? And who would miss out? And would there be any finger wagging?

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