American swimmer Lilly King considers herself an “aggressive competitor” and is known for leg snaps, finger waves, stare downs and other intimidating tactics she uses to try to psych out her rivals.
Now King’s laser focus is set on critics of the U.S. swimming team’s silver and bronze medal haul in Tokyo, calling it inexcusable that second and third places could be considered failures.
“Excuse my French but the fact that we’re not celebrating silver and bronze is bull****,” she said in response to critics of the U.S. team’s performance after finishing second in the women’s 200m breaststroke to South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, who broke the world record.
After Day 7 in the pool, the U.S. team had 24 medals — six gold, nine silver and nine bronze. By comparison, by the end of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, 16 of the U.S.’s 33 swimming medals in the pool were gold.
King, who bagged two gold medals at the Rio Games and has so far won silver and bronze in Tokyo, said U.S. sport’s winning mentality didn’t mean that only gold medals should be celebrated.
“What is that about?” she asks. “You get to bring a medal home for your country and just because we compete for the United States and maybe we have extremely high standards for this sort of thing that doesn’t excuse the fact that we haven’t been celebrating silver and bronze as much as gold.”
King said she was anything but disappointed with her silver in Tokyo.
“I might be more happy with this medal than I’ve been with any of my previous medals including my two golds in Rio. That’s simply just for the way that I’ve handled myself,” King said.
King won her bronze medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke behind teammate Lydia Jacoby, who upset the field for gold. Schoenmaker won silver in that event.
“We really should be celebrating those silver and bronzes,” she said. “Those are some of the greatest moments of an athlete’s career so why would we not be celebrating that?”