Wednesday, August 10, 2016

King-Sized

I have already watched more of NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics than I had originally intended.  I have a sickness:  I love watching the Olympic Swimming events.  

Last night, Margaret and I watched the grand old man of US Swimming, Michael Phelps, earn his twentieth and twenty-first gold medals, and the teenage phenom Katie Ledecky back up her world-record-setting, gold-medal performance in the 400-meter freestyle with a gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle. NBC put up a graphic immediately before Ledecky's event that going into last night's 200-meter freestyle final, Ledecky had raced in thirteen individual finals in international competitions and won all thirteen.  She is now fourteen for fourteen.  Heady stuff.

My new favorite member of the US team is Ledecky's fellow teenager and fellow gold-medalist, Lilly King.  King became something of an overnight sensation (including to Yours truly) after winning her semi-final in the 100-meter breaststroke on Sunday night and then engaging in a rather spirited finger-wagging showing with her Russian rival, Yulia Efimova, who has apparently been suspended from international competition secondary to being caught blood doping and/or failing drug tests on two separate occasions within the past two years and whose clearance to compete in these Olympics only was obtained shortly before she was scheduled to compete. 

King's issue with Efimova is simple:  Efimova has been caught cheating - blood doping - and King believes that once an athlete is caught doing what Efimova has been caught doing, international competitions such as the Olympics should not welcome them as competitors. For whatever it is worth - and it is likely worth little to Lilly King - I happen to agree with her.  "Play Fair or Stay Home" seems to be a fairly straightforward mantra of which the IOC should consider adoption. 

While Efimova is the principal focus of King's ire, the Hoosier firebrand's criticism is not leveled at her rival alone.  Nor is she leveling it at non-American athletes only.  When asked in her post-race press conference Monday night about the presence of twice-suspended drug cheat Justin Gatlin on the United States Track and Field Team, King made her position regarding his participation clear, "Do I think that people who have been caught for doping offenses should be on the team? No, they shouldn't."     

Lilly King is scheduled to compete today in the 200-meter backstroke.  Whether she shall collect another medal, gold or otherwise, at these Olympics I could not pretend to guess.  I am willing to predict however that whether she does or not, the world has not heard the last of Lilly King.  

I certainly hope not.  

-AK 

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