King’s decision to swim at Indiana was right move

The AT&T Winter Swim Nationals is a U.S. championship, but that doesn’t mean all of the best swimmers in the country were in Federal Way, Washington. And not all the swimmers who competed had U.S. citizenship.
The meet was an open-ended competition that included unattached swimmers, club teams and college teams.
It’s why Lilly King, who won the 200-meter breaststroke and finished second in the 100-breaststroke to a Russian champion, was cautiously excited by her performance while representing Indiana University.
She knows some of the swimmers who are ranked ahead of her in those events were at the meet.
Still, King, a former Reitz High standout who is now a freshman at IU, gained confidence from her performance.
With the U.S. Olympic Trials in late June and early July, King now knows that if she continues her dramatic improvement since arriving in Bloomington, she will have a strong chance to qualify foru the U.S. team in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
“Now that I actually have a shot at two events it’s kind of nice because I don’t have to put all my eggs in one basket,” said King. “It definitely takes a little bit of the pressure off.
“It’s kind of crazy (that she won the 200 breaststroke) because I was 16th at nationals this summer and now I win it. I went from being 16th to first.”
She swam 2:24.47 in the 200 to break an age-group record for swimmers 17-18 that had been held by former Olympian Amanda Beard. The time was five seconds faster than her previous personal record.
In the 100, which she had hoped to win, she swam another PR (and setting another IU school record) with a time of 1:06.43.
But she was beaten by Russian Yulia Efimova, 23, who won the bronze medal in the 200 breast at the 2012 Olympics in London. Efimova was 7th in the 100 in London. And four years earlier she was 4th in the 100 and 5th in the 200 in Beijing.
The weekend validated King’s decision to swim at Indiana under head coach Ray Looze, who has a program that strives for team success in the Big Ten and NCAA but also wants his swimmers to aspire for greater things.
The Big Ten was well represented in the meet with four of the top eight women’s teams in the standings, including Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State finished 2nd through 4th behind California-Berkeley. In the combined standings for men and women, Michigan was first followed by Indiana and Ohio State.
“There are some programs that have a more collegiate approach and at Indiana we have an international approach,” said Looze. “NCAA and Big Ten is important to us but we also want to produce Olympians and help people thrive at the international level.”

Praying for Boston victims, remembering Atlanta Olympics bombing

Today’s bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon brought back memories of the bombing at Centennial Park during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Centennial Park was located across the street from the media center and as I was leaving that night, I ran into a fellow journalist and friend who almost convinced me to head over to the park for a few beers and the free concert that was taking place.

Frankly, if I had been staying in a downtown hotel, I would have gone. But it was after midnight, I was tired, and mornings come quickly when you are covering an Olympics for a small newspaper. Plus, the fleabag hotel I was staying in was located just outside Decatur, which meant taking the train to an end of the line station. And then still driving another eight minutes or so to the hotel.

So I reluctantly passed up the free concert and headed to the Roach Motel with its shower with the metallic smell. I was pretty exhausted when I got to the room, but I turned on the TV out of habit and the stations were all covering the park bombing.

I remember debating myself over whether I should drive downtown to cover it, but after about a 13-hour day my dedication wavered.

Instead, I set the alarm for 6 a.m. so I could get back to the media center as early as possible.

The Olympics weren’t all fun and games after that, but it was one of those events I wanted to check off my bucket list as a sports writer.

Covering a senseless bombing that injures hundreds of folks, not so much.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Boston victims, most of them spectators who were downtown to watch the runners and celebrate Patriot’s Day in Boston. It was a horrific act of terrorism that exacted a particular heavy price on one family.

After watching all the video from Boston, I also had a moment of silence for the hundreds of victims in Atlanta, including the two who died there. If I had gone to the concert, I doubt I would have been anywhere near the pipe bombs that exploded on July 27, 1996 in downtown Atlanta.

But I would have heard the blast and seen the panic first hand, and I thank God I don’t have those memories to haunt me.