2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Can Lilly King Break Her 200 Breast Curse?


See all of our U.S. Olympic Trials previews & picks here.

Women’s 200 Breast

  • World Record: Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) – 2:19.11 (2013)
  • American Record: Rebecca Soni – 2:19.59 (2012)
  • US Open Record: Rebecca Soni (USA) – 2:20.38 (2009)
  • World Junior Record: Viktoriya Zeynep Gunes (TUR) – 2:19.64 (2015)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Rie Kaneto (JPN) – 2:20.30
  • 2016 US Olympic Trials Champion: Lilly King – 2:24.08
  • Wave I Cut: 2:33.29
  • Wave II Cut: 2:30.49

Okay, we all know that Lilly King can sprint breaststroke. She is the defending Olympic champion in the 100 breast, two-time defending World champion in both the 50/100 breast, and not too mention the current 100 breast world record-holder. But what’s missing from the list? The 200 breast. The only major international medal King has earned in the 200 breast was at the 2018 Pan Pacs, where she took silver to 2012 Olympian Micah Sumrall after winning gold in her signature 100 breast event. Since Rebecca Soni‘s 2012 Olympic title, only Sumrall has been able to top a major international 200 breast final.

Before Sumrall’s 2018 Pan Pacs title, she took bronze in the 2013 World event final and silver in 2015. At the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, King (2:24.03) won the 200 breast final alongside runner-up Molly Hannis (2:24.39) while Sumrall finished a devastating 4th place in the final, missing out on returning to the Olympics after a valiant 5th place finish in London. While neither King nor Hannis advanced to the Olympic final in Rio, King did walk away with her two Olympic golds from the 100 breast and 400 medley relay.

As the US entered the 2017-2021 Olympic cycle, King looked to be a serious 200 breast threat alongside her deadly 100 breast. At the 2017 U.S. Nationals in Indy, King nabbed the national title at 2:21.83 in the 200 breast to qualify herself and Bethany Galat (2:22.03) for the 2017 World Championships. In Budapest, however, Galat took a surprise silver medal finish at 2:21.77 while King missed the podium by 0.18s at 2:22.11.

Fast forward to the 2018 U.S. Nationals in Irvine, Sumrall took the national title at 2:22.03 while Galat placed second at 2:23.32. At the same time, King placed fifth at 2:25.31. Since King won the 100 breast national title, she was eligible to swim the 200 breast at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. At the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo, Sumrall took the title over King 2:21.88 to 2:22.12.

In between the 2018-2019 season, up-and-coming comeback swimmer Annie Lazor put up a raving 2:20.77 at the 2019 Pro Swim Series in Bloomington, besting King’s lifetime best. King owns a lifetime best of 2:21.39 from the first stop of the 2019 FINA Champions Series, also held in Indy. At the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, King looked sharp during the event prelims, but wound up being disqualified for a mid-race infraction. As for 2018 national champion Sumrall, the veteran was only able to manage 11th in the semi-finals at 2:25.41.

During the latter half of the 2019 international championship season, Madisyn Cox won the 2019 U.S. National title in a King/Sumrall-less field at 2:23.84, which would have won the 2016 Trials final. At the 2019 Pan American Games, the US went a 1-2 finish with the efforts of Lazor’s Games record of 2:21.40 and Galat’s runner-up time of 2:21.84.

The most recent national gathering (with all heavy contenders present), the 2019 U.S. Open, was the checkpoint entering the then-2020 U.S. Olympic Trials meet. At the halfway point of the final, King had a narrow edge on Emily Escobedo, until the sprinter slowed as Escobedo built a slight lead. Escobedo upset King in a U.S. Open meet record of 2:22.00 while King settled for second at 2:22.63.

At the moment, King is No. 1 on the US rankings for the 2020-2021 season at 2:21.82, which came from the 2021 Pro Swim Series, in Indy. Lazor sits in second at 2:22.23 while Escobedo is the only other sub-2:23 time at 2:22.81. Cox (2:25.48) and Sumrall (2:27.64) also rank within the top 8 times this season heading into Trials.

In the SCY pool, King went undefeated in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breast all four years at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Likewise, with the Cali Condors, King went 9-1 in breast event wins during ISL season two. Alas, the Olympic pool is in long course meters. The US women’s 200 breast has been in need of someone to fill Soni’s sub-2:20 shoes since 2012, and King is certainly more than capable of taking the role. The question is: can King translate her past short course racing successes into the major (inter)national long course competition pool?

Top 8 Picks:

Women’s 200 BR
Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Annie Lazor 2:20.77 2:22.23
2 Emily Escobedo 2:22.00 2:22.81
3 Lilly King 2:21.39 2:21.82
4 Bethany Galat 2:21.84 2:28.44
5 Madisyn Cox 2:23.84 2:25.48
6 Micah Sumrall 2:21.88 2:27.64
7 Ella Nelson 2:26.66 2:26.66
8 Molly Hannis 2:24.39 2:28.60

Dark Horse Threat: Lydia Jacoby (15th seed, 2:27.39) — You probably saw this one coming, but this Alaskan teen is going to change things up in the breaststroke game, whether it’s the 100 or 200 breast. Entering Omaha, Jacoby has a serious chance of qualifying for Olympics in the 100 breast. However, if things work in her favor or the other, she still could make some noise in this event. Jacoby’s stroke looks similar to Aussie legend’s Leisel Jones, utilizing a natural stroke to create lethal underwater propulsion with a shallow pull and low head/elbow positions. At PSS Mission Viejo, Jacoby split 1:11.35 on her first 100 before swimming 38.85/37.19 on the back-half. If Jacoby swam at the 2019 U.S. Open, she would have placed 5th (beating Sumrall) and had the 4th-best finishing 50 (Lazor 35.97, King 35.99, Escobedo 36.13). Swimming against a competitive field like in the 100, she could very well keep up with a 1:10 pace before she turns on her consistent finishing speed. Again, Lydia Jacoby, remember the name.

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4 months ago

Yes! The great Lilly will reign as KING of the castle!

Wave 1.5 Qualifier
4 months ago

LOL at the tease in the entire article only to predict her as 3rd place.

Reply to  Wave 1.5 Qualifier
4 months ago


Reply to  Wave 1.5 Qualifier
4 months ago

I think Rebecca Soni going to finish second 😂😂😂

Reply to  Swimfan
4 months ago

Bet she’d go at least 2:22 rn lol

Reply to  Wave 1.5 Qualifier
4 months ago

In hindsight anyone familiar with Betteridge’s law of headlines should’ve known better

4 months ago

King and Escobedo shut out Lazor by .01

4 months ago

I would love to see Lazor and Escobedo punch their tickets to Tokyo in this event.

4 months ago

It’s going to be King and Lazor because they are both coached by the NEW ASCA Hall of Fame Coach, Ray Looze!

Last edited 4 months ago by Guerra
Reply to  Guerra
4 months ago

I didn’t know Ray Looze was a pupil of Dean?

4 months ago

Really pulling for Galat to make the team

Phil McDade
4 months ago

3rd….the disrespect…:(

Go Dawgs
4 months ago

Let’s go Emily!! UMBC is rooting for you!!

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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