While watching the semifinals of the 100-meter breaststroke on Sunday, American Lilly King watched Russian Yulia Efimova win her heat and then raise her fingers, declaring herself No. 1. King, while watching on a TV monitor, mocked her rival by wagging her finger like former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo.
It was one of the first viral moments of the Rio Olympics, and it resonated deeply. Efimova, the favorite to win the gold medal, had been busted twice previously for drugs and was only allowed to compete a day before the swimming competition began—much to the chagrin of many of the fans in attendance, who have booed her throughout the competition (something that rarely happens at the Olympics).
On Monday, King delivered an even bigger statement, beating Efimova for the gold medal in a race separated by more than a half-second. The victory went over huge on Twitter, with many comparing King to Rocky Balboa and/or the swimming version of Mutombo.
If you’re going to Mutombo somebody…back it up. #Rio2016 #LillyKing— Jonathan Heeter (@HeetTweets) August 9, 2016
TFW you got Mutumbo'd for 100 meters pic.twitter.com/1RnABu9S9m— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) August 9, 2016
That was the closest thing to Rocky IV we’re ever going to get #Rio2016— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) August 9, 2016
Lilly King pic.twitter.com/fBI6p2Ykwx— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) August 9, 2016
I imagine this is how our parents felt when Rocky beat Drago.— Brendan Darr (@BrendanDarr) August 9, 2016
Yulia Efimova leaves pool deck alone. Lilly King strides past her without saying a word or even acknowledging her.— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) August 9, 2016
Afterward, King was asked by NBC if she had made a statement.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal is probably making a statement,” she said. “I hope I did. We can still compete clean and do well at the Olympic Games. That’s how it should be.”
She said it without raising her finger. It’s because she didn’t need to. She already knew who was No. 1.