The new queen of Evansville, Indiana is Lilly King. The 19-year-old Reitz High School graduate and Indiana University sophomore swimming star, unleashed a record setting gold medal swim in the women’s 100M breaststroke in Rio de Janeiro. Her time of 1:04.93 placed her ahead of second place finisher Yulia Efimova of Russia and 76 one hundredths of a second ahead of fellow American and bronze medal winner Katie Meili.
Recently during her freshman year at IU Lilly was named the Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, earned four All-America honors, First-Team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten Freshman of the year. At the NCAA 2016 finals, she was crowned the NCAA Champion in the 100M breaststroke (56.85) and 200M breaststroke (2:03.59). The performance established King as one of the best short course yards breaststroke swimmers in history, setting the America, NCAA, NCAA Meet, U.S. Open, Indiana school, Big Ten, and Georgia Tech Pool records in winning the NCAA titles.
While Lilly King has been a leading story on national television, the local Evansville, Indiana media has exploded with thunderous accolades and applause. Local television, state newspapers and of course her high school and many friends have been popping buttons in pride and rightly so. The local Evansville Courier & Press currently has a headline running that says, “Lilly King: the most unifying force in Evansville history.” That within itself is an amazing statement. While that statement seems more than incredible I can actually nod my head in belief. Most town and communities are always fighting about something. It’s very hard to get a large majority to agree about anything in any city it seems. Few political leaders are considered heroes today. If you are in public office, 50% of the people tolerate you and the other 50% hate you. How could anybody ever aspire to run for public office and face such disdain? Yet, if Lilly King announced her candidacy for Congress tomorrow she would probably win because she is a winner. People love winners. Americans embrace winners.
Do you remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games? The world took a deep breath in pride and love when the cameras showed the king of all heavy weight fighters and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic Cauldron flame. While Ali had certainly been defeated and knocked down he will always be remembered as the champ. Look at the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers won the first professional championship since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns and Jim Brown captured the National Football League Championship. LeBron James led the way to the NBA victory and he is certainly the most embraced and loved person in Cleveland, Ohio today. People love winners.
A major difference with athletes and politicians is that athletes perform and politicians usually talk. Politicians make lots of promises but seldom cross the finish line. Someone like Lilly King, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas or any one of our many other beloved athletes cross the finish line and even bring home the gold. They are forever enshrined into the hearts of Americans. Forever cherished and loved.
Maybe if Lilly King is the most unifying force in the history of Evansville then maybe for a few days or even weeks the Olympics will unify some of our country. We desperately need something to unify us.
Glenn Mollette is an American syndicated columnist and author. This column does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution or this paper or media source.