Lilly King and Annie Lazor, training partners and friends, win Olympic medals side by side

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TOKYO — Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, training partners and close friends, medaled together in the 200-meter breaststroke on Friday.

King finished second, and Lazor third, behind South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, who broke the world record in the event (2:18.95).

King came to Tokyo with eyes on two individual medals. She won a first on Tuesday, but it wasn’t the color she’d expected. She hadn’t lost the 100 breast, her signature event, in five-and-a-half years, until 17-year-old Alaskan Lydia Jacoby came along and beat her.

The 200 breast had always been her weakest distance. She’d never medaled in it at an Olympic Games or world championships, and finished second to Lazor at trials. She qualified for Friday’s Olympic final in fifth, behind Lazor in third and Schoenmaker in the top spot.

South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker (R) reacts with third placed USA's Annie Lazor (C) and second placed USA's Lilly King after winning the final of the women's 200m breaststroke swimming event to set a new World Record during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker (R) reacts with third placed USA's Annie Lazor (C) and second placed USA's Lilly King after winning the final of the women's 200m breaststroke swimming event to set a new World Record during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Lazor retired after failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, but returned to the sport to make one last run at Games glory. She moved to Indiana to train with King, and the two became breaststroke partners and close friends, fiercely competitive in practice and unconditionally supportive away from it. When Lazor’s father, Dave, died this past spring, a couple months before trials, King drove five hours to the visitation, and promised Lazor’s mother, Stacey, that she’d do whatever she could to pull Annie with her to the Olympics.

Annie struggled at times over those months. She felt, for a while, that when she woke up every morning, she faced a choice between swimming and grief. Between a focus on what would be her greatest achievement, securing an Olympic berth, and processing “the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”

When she qualified at trials, she hopped over a lane line and ambushed King with a bear hug. She splashed her fists into the water. She pressed herself out of the pool and immediately found her family. She’d wanted to qualify for many reasons, and one of them was to give her mother and siblings happiness in a time of heartbreak. So when she had, tears rolled down her cheeks, for entire minutes.

The two embraced in the pool again Friday, their journey together to Tokyo having produced a pair of medals — a silver for King in an event she'd never medaled in at a big meet, a bronze for Lazor who, if she decides to retire for good, is now an Olympic medalist. 

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