Olympic Swimmer Lilly King Exclusively Teases Wedding Plans After Trials Engagement

Hint: A body of water is going to be involved.
US swimmer Lilly King's engagement to James Wells at Olympic trials
Photo: @_king_lil | Instagram
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Jul 12, 2024
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Lilly King has more than just Olympic rings in her future—she has wedding rings, too! On June 20, 2024, the US swimmer got engaged to her boyfriend, James Wells, immediately after qualifying for the 200-meter breaststroke race at the Paris Games.

King, a five-time medalist who had already secured a spot in the Olympics after winning the 100m breaststroke final, was greeted by Wells when she got out of the trial pool. NBC cameras captured the proposal, which took the athlete by complete surprise. "I think I'm far too logical for my own good," King tells The Knot in an interview. "So I was like, 'Why are you down here? And why are you wearing your nice clothes?' After that, I figured out what was going on."

The shocking proposal was a sweet ending to a successful trial run, where King locked in her third Olympics appearance. (At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she won gold medals in the 100-meter breaststroke and the 4x100-meter medley relay. At the 2020 Games in Tokyo, she took home silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and the 4x100-meter medley relay, and bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke.) Ahead of the 2024 Games in Paris, we caught up with Lilly King and James Wells to break down their viral engagement, and to discuss their future wedding plans. (Hint: A body of water is going to be involved.)

In this article:

James Wells and Lilly King's Engagement Details

At first, James Wells didn't plan to propose at the Olympic trials in Indiana. The couple intends to travel through Europe after the Paris Olympics, which was where he originally wanted to pop the question. "She's a huge Harry Potter fan, and we were planning to go to Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station [in London]," Wells explains. "I was going to try to get her in the robes!" Alas, that idea didn't come to fruition—because as he watched his longtime girlfriend compete in the swimming trials in her home state surrounded by her friends and teammates, he knew it was the perfect opportunity.

As King came out of the pool and walked over to her boyfriend, who got down on one knee in front of NBC cameras, he shared a touching speech. "Over the last four years, both in and out of the pool, seeing you grow has been so awesome," he said, "I don't regret dropping my job and moving across the country for us to be together. It has been awesome, and I'm very excited to see where this goes." King accepted, eliciting cheers from a crowd of well-wishers that gathered around the couple.

He presented her with a botanical Brilliant Earth engagement ring, complete with leaf-shaped accents and emerald green side stones surrounding an oval-cut diamond. Although they didn't go shopping together, Wells knew exactly what kind of ring the athlete would wear every day. "She wanted it to be a gold band, and she loves nature," he explains, noting that King diligently tends to the garden in their backyard. "I thought [this ring] was beautiful, but not overwhelming." Adds King: "It's just right—perfect."

While the couple got engaged on live television, their post-proposal celebration was much more low-key. "My favorite part of the engagement was after it happened," Wells says. "We went to a bar that was completely empty aside from us and six of our friends. It was awesome." On the way back to their hotel, they relived the proposal through Snapchats and videos sent by loved ones who watched everything unfold on TV. "They were far more emotional than I was," King laughs.

Lilly King's Wedding Vision

Although the engagement occurred mere weeks ahead of the Paris Olympics, that hasn't stopped Lilly King from diving into wedding plans already. "We're looking at venues right now," King explains. "We're probably going to get married in Maine, which is where he's from."

Although the two aren't able to physically tour their favorite options just yet, they're finding joy in the inspiration-gathering process. "We recently lost power because of a storm, so we just scrolled on our phones in the dark looking at ideas," Wells says. "It was fun."

Interestingly enough, the couple's love story began at a wedding. They both attended Indiana University and competed on the swim team—but since Wells is a few years older, they only briefly crossed paths before going their separate ways. They reconnected at a mutual friend's wedding a few years later, where they hit it off. "We kept in touch for a while by texting back and forth every now and then," Wells recalls. "Then, she came to Maine on vacation with that same friend from the wedding during the pandemic. She asked me out at the end of that week, and I said yes." After making their relationship work long distance for about a year, King says, "We decided to full send it and move in together."

Lilly King at the 2016 Olymics
Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP | Getty Images

Now, with the athlete preparing for her final Olympics, the two are excitedly awaiting their upcoming wedding—which will include nods to all of their favorite things. "We both love nature and camping," Wells explains, "So we've been looking at a lot of water-related venues, like ones that are oceanfront or on lakes."

But before she truly immerses herself in wedding planning, King is excited for one final go on the world's biggest athletic stage. "I'm excited to take it all in. At Rio, everything was so new and fresh. And Tokyo was just weird," she says, referencing the 2020 games that took place in 2021—without any fans present—due to the pandemic. "This time, I'm excited for literally everything."

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