Anyone watching the recent Tokyo Olympics likely heard the Tri-State mentioned on air. Competitive swimmer and Evansville native Lilly King and WNBA player and Princeton, Indiana, native Jackie Young both represented the U.S. in the delayed 2020 Summer Games.
Young had less than one week’s notice when she was called to replace Katie Lou Samuelson on the women’s basketball 3-on-3 team after the Seattle Storm player tested positive for COVID-19.
“Obviously, I hated to go under the circumstances,” says Young, a guard with the Las Vegas Aces. “That part is what made it hard, but I knew that they needed me, so I just had to step up and fill the role.”
Young had two practices with teammates Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, and fellow Ace Kelsey Plum before going on to win gold in a 18-15 finals match against the Russian Olympic Committee.
“It was an honor and something I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl,” she says. “It’s hard to put into words, but I’m super thankful that I had the opportunity to play on the 3-on-3 women’s basketball team.”
For King, preparation was abundant. Tokyo was her second Olympics; she previously won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke and 4×100-meter medley relay at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Upset by fellow U.S. swimmer Lydia Jacoby in the 100-meter breaststroke this year, she still took the bronze medal and won silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and the 4×100-meter medley relay.
“It was for sure a rollercoaster of emotions and, you know, good and bad, but it was overall a really good experience for me,” says King. “It was great to see all the support from back home.”
King’s veteran status gave her a leadership role on the team, one she says she’s comfortable having, especially when it comes to Paralympian swimmer and Evansville resident Mikaela Jenkins.
“She’s been super helpful the past couple of years,” says Jenkins of King. “She’s been giving me all this information about the village and all that, so I’m prepared.”
18-year-old Jenkins, a graduate of a homeschool partnership with F.J. Reitz High School, was at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics until Sept. 4, when she flew straight to Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, for her freshman year. In her first Paralympics, she competed in the 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter butterfly, and 200-meter individual medley. As of press time, Jenkins had won gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly and the women’s 4-by-100-meter medley relay.
“I feel like one of the issues that’s come with COVID and being quarantined most of the year is that I’ve gotten into such a rut, and I’m ready to get out of that and do something new,” Jenkins says. “I’m always down for an adventure and trying something, so I’m excited.”
Follow Jenkins’ Paralympic journey in our weekly e-newsletter, Insider, and visit evansvilleliving.com for more coverage of the Tri-State’s Olympic athletes.
Mikaela Jenkins photo provided by Jennifer Jenkins. Jackie Young photo provided by Andrea Howe/Princeton Daily Clarion. lilly king photo provided by Lilly King.
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