Lilly King made it clear what she thought about Russian rival Yulia Efimova's doping history and whether she deserved to be an Olympic champion. Then the American went out and did the only thing possible to stop Efimova from winning gold in the women's 100-meter breaststroke: She won it herself.
King responded to Efimova's finger wagging during the heats by calling out the Russian's past doping suspensions and expressing objections with her competing in Rio. She immediately upped the stakes for Monday night in the process. Now it wasn't just an Olympic final. For King and Efimova, it was personal, too.
"You know, you’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating," said King in an NBC interview after the semifinals. "I’m just not a fan."
Efimova has been suspended multiple times in the past for drug-related offenses and is participating in Rio despite testing positive for a banned substance (meldonium) earlier this year. She's also part of a Russian national team that's undergone great scrutiny following the uncovering of a massive state-sponsored doping scandal.
King didn't hide from any of that. If anything, she did the opposite, using the controversy as a source of motivation in the pool. She thinks it's unfair that athletes like Efimova get to compete in the same pool as historically clean athletes like her. That includes her own American teammates with past suspensions like sprinter Justin Gatlin. She says she wants to take a harder stance against doping in sports.
So in the Olympic final, after all the trash talk and finger wagging, King went out and beat Efimova:
If there's one thing sports desperately wants to tell you, it's that winning and losing are the only things that matter. King's comments made for great TV, but nobody would've really remembered them the same way if she lost to Efimova. The story needed a happy ending. King's grand stand against doping wouldn't have been the same with Efimova celebrating in front of a booing crowd.
Instead, King set the Olympic record with her time of one minute and 4.93 seconds. She perfectly executed her final stroke, extending to reach the finish off one last kick as Efimova was just behind. The Russian finished in one minute and 5.5 seconds.
Rather than go back to the finger wag, King opted for the "spitting fountain" celebration:
Chlorine has never tasted so good.
And if you were wondering whether winning the gold took away King's edge, well ...
Lilly King pic.twitter.com/rhijNqmPeE— SB Nation (@SBNation) August 9, 2016
Depending on how you view it, King has just become one of swimming's biggest heroes or biggest villains. She's loud, expressive and just proved -- while clean -- she's better than everyone else, too. America has another swimming star, she wants to compete against clean athletes, and she's not going to be shy about it.