TOKYO – Lilly King believed the U.S. women’s team was capable of winning every gold medal at the pool in Tokyo.
That hasn't happened, but the brash breaststroker's confidence in her teammates has still been validated with multiple medals, even if they're not all gold.
Halfway through the nine-day competition, the American women have claimed two golds among 11 total swimming medals. Their male counterparts have won two golds and five medals overall.
“We all feed off each others’ successes,” Kate Douglass said. “It’s just showing that there’s a great future for U.S. swimming out there.”
Even when King and her cohorts didn't finish first, they've shown up on the podium in pairs.
Alex Walsh and Douglass earned silver and bronze in the 200-meter individual medley on Wednesday. Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger earlier took silver and bronze in the 400 IM.
“We’ve seen a lot of really good races for Team USA, and we wanted to contribute,” Walsh said. “I was feeling a lot of pressure just from myself wanting to win a medal for USA, and I think a lot of the other youngsters were feeling the same way.”
Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old from Alaska, won a stunning gold in the 100 breaststroke, upsetting King, who took bronze. Katie Ledecky won her first gold in Tokyo in the first women's 1,500 freestyle in Olympic history on Wednesday, with teammate Erica Sullivan rallying to finish second.
“I saw her slam the water, and then I looked up like, ‘Oh, wow, she must have done something like really good,’” Sullivan said. “Then I looked up and was like, ‘Oh, shoot, I did something really good.’”
Ledecky slapped the water in celebration and slid over the lane rope to share the moment with Sullivan, hugging her and smiling.
So far, the U.S. women have been shut out of medals in just two events: the 100 butterfly and 200 free.
They're getting on the podium with a new generation of Olympians.
The team includes 18 first-timers. Regan Smith, a 19-year-old from Minnesota, earned a bronze in the 100 backstroke. Rookies Erika Brown and Natalie Hinds helped the U.S. to a bronze in the 4x100 free relay. Torri Huske, an 19-year-old from Virginia, just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly.
“It's a huge learning opportunity for us,” Walsh said. “We're kind of making a statement.”
The youngsters broke out while Ledecky got off to a silver-medal start in the 400 free, her first event in Tokyo. The three-time Olympian then missed the podium in the 200 free, finishing fifth as the defending champion.
She'll be the favorite to win her third consecutive gold in the 800 free on Saturday, when Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus of Australia go head-to-head for the third time in these Games. Before that, Ledecky will swim on the 4x200 free relay, with the U.S. a strong contender for gold.
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