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Lilly King’s three gold medals lead IU swimmers at 2019 FINA World Championships



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IU swimmer Lilly King swims to a gold medal in the women's 100 breaststroke Aug. 8, 2016, at the Olympic Aquatic Stadium in Brazil. King won Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year for the second-straight season on Thursday. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Since stepping onto the international stage for the first time at the 2016 Olympics, Lilly King has known one color in her best events: Gold.

That didn’t change at the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea.

King was the headliner of the Hoosier group in South Korea, winning three gold medals and one silver. Her four medals are part of 12 total won by IU athletes, seven of which were gold. 

Her first medal came in her best event, the 100-meter breaststroke. King and Russian rival Yulia Efimova were right next to each other in the pool, in lanes four and five respectively. While the rivalry has cooled since the finger wag in Brazil, King continued her dominance over Efimova in the event.

In the final quarter of the race, Efimova drew back even with King after the IU postgraduate had a trademark quick start. King peered over her shoulder to see the Russian and burst ahead in the final 15 meters to win the race.

King’s time of 1:04.93 was just slower than her world record time at the 2017 World Championships. She is now three-for-three against Efimova at the Olympics and World Championships in the 100-meter breaststroke.

King’s training was focused on the 200-meter breaststroke, an event where Efimova was already a two-time world champion entering 2019.

But she wouldn’t get a chance to race Efimova in her better event.

King was disqualified during the preliminary heats for not touching the wall with two hands simultaneously during one of her turns. King was not originally told the reason for her disqualification and sat in the stands, goggles on, during the semifinal heats.

King would later admit that she missed the wall with her left hand, justifying the disqualification.

On the final day, King added two more gold medals, beating Efimova and 14-year-old Italian Benedetta Pilato in the 50-meter breast before setting a world record as part of the USA women’s 4x100-meter medley relay team.

King also added a silver medal to her haul in the mixed 4x100-meter medley relay.

As for the rest of Hoosiers, Zach Apple carried his strong performance from the World University Games in Italy over to the World Championships.

He earned a gold medal and a world record in the mixed 4x100-meter freestyle relay and won gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay as well. Blake Pieroni also earned gold as part of the USA team in each event. Apple and Pieroni won bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

Pieroni placed fourth in the 100-meter freestyle, coming .06 seconds short of a medal.

Then-sophomore Blake Pieroni dives off the starting block during the 100-yard breaststroke during a 2015 meet against Cincinnati at the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center. Pieroni won the 100 freestyle at the Phillips 66 National Championships.  Rachel Meert Buy Photos

IU rising sophomore Michael Brinegar won bronze in the five kilometer mixed relay with Team USA. Brinegar was the anchor of the team which finished in just under 54 minutes. Brinegar figures to be a key part of head coach Ray Looze’s team in distance events this season.

The final Hoosier medal went to IU rising junior Andrew Capobianco, who won bronze in the mixed team diving event. Capobianco and his partner Katrina Young started slowly but quickly moved up the leaderboard as the event progressed. Capobianco was the 2019 NCAA champion in the 3-meter dive and will take over as the leader of a diving program that has lost Michael Hixon, Jessica Parratto and James Connor in the past two years.

Many of the Hoosiers who participated in the World Championships will now head to Stanford, California for the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships beginning July 31.

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