Lilly King keeps her promise as Annie Lazor qualifies for Tokyo 2020

When Annie Lazor lost her father unexpectedly earlier this year, Lilly King made a promise to a mother that she would do everything she could to help Lazor qualify for The Olympic Games, and the swimming duo did just that side-by-side. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Lilly King and Annie Lazor shared an emotion-fuelled hug at the end of the 200-metre breaststroke race at the U.S. swimming Olympic trials that would have left many teary-eyed, including Lazor herself.

King has dominated the breaststroke event since her gold-winning race at Rio 2016, setting an Olympic record of 1:04.93.

After picking up five gold medals since the last Olympic Games, it wasn't a surprise for swimming fans to see King qualify for Tokyo 2020 following a first-placed finish in the 100-metre breaststroke and second in the 200-metre breaststroke.

For friend and training partner, Annie Lazor, the 200-metre breaststroke was her last chance to qualify for what would be her first Olympics after missing out on the 100m finishing in third.

Side-by-side, King and Lazor lead the way on the approach to the end and Lazor confirmed her place on the US Olympic Swimming Team by finishing just ahead of her teammate.

The two embraced in a powerful hug as the reality began to set in: just two months after losing her father, Annie Lazor had booked her ticket to Tokyo.

And King had followed through on the promise she made those months ago.

Annie Lazor and Lilly King share an emotional embrace after Lazor books her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics 2020. 
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The emotional promise of Lilly King and Annie Lazor

In April 2021, tragedy struck Annie Lazor and her family with the sudden passing of her father, David.

"He [David] lavished love on his daughter Annie and encourage her big dreams," his obituary read.

"Their weekly phone calls delighted him and he adored just listening to her talk about her life."

King drove five hours to visit the Lazor family in that darkest hour, and sought out Annie's mother to make a promise.

"That she was going to do everything it took to put me on the [Olympic] team, and she was going to pull me through practice every day," Lazor told NBC.

"That meant the absolute world to me and to my mom.”

And over the next few months, the two trained together and King spurred her teammate through practice each day, just as she had promised.

Even after winning the 100m breaststroke and qualifying for her second Games, the defending Olympic champion felt more concern for Lazor after coming third - a true testament to King's character and the friendship the two have built.

Lazor: "I couldn't have done it without this girl"

After a moving embrace between the two in the pool, tears turned to joy as they celebrated the very thing that must have been unthinkable just two months ago.

In a post-swim interview, Lazor fights back the tears as she and King cling to each other, just as they have been doing in the lead up to and throughout the qualifiers.

"I am just overcome with emotion," she told NBC.

"It's been a long couple of months for me, and I just couldn't have done it without this girl.

"She's pulled me through practice every day, I'm just so thankful for her."

The two share a look of gratitude, holding onto one another with the knowledge that they would be going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics together.

A poignant moment for not only swimming, but the entire world, to see the strength and courage both King and Lazor demonstrated over the last few months and on the night when it meant the most.