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Lilly King ready for ‘awkward’ first encounter with Yulia Efimova at worlds

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Lilly King doesn’t know how she’ll react when she sees Yulia Efimova for the first time since the Rio Olympics next week.

King does know this: There is nothing she wants to say to her Russian rival at the world championships in Budapest.

“I’ll let my swimming do the talking,” King said in a phone interview from the U.S. swim team’s training camp in Croatia on Tuesday. “It’s obviously going to be very awkward, that first encounter, but it’s going to happen. I’m ready for it.”

King and Efimova, after King won their memorable Rio Olympic 100m breast duel, should be in close proximity throughout next week.

They’re the top two seeds in all three breaststrokes, meaning they could face off for gold in finals Tuesday (100m breast), next Friday (200m breast) and the last Sunday (50m breast). A full broadcast schedule is here.

Yes, King is aware of the world rankings.

“I’ve checked it, and I’m honestly totally fine with it,” she said. “That’s about what I expected. Nobody else can really swim with us, in my opinion. I’m excited to race her again, excited for more of our rivalry to continue.”

King feels differently than a year ago, when she made her major international meet debut in Rio. Whereas Efimova had won world titles in the 100m and 200m breaststrokes between the London and Rio Games.

“I guess I kind of have a target on my back now,” King said. “I was a nobody last summer.”

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MORE: Michael Phelps not itching to return like in 2013

Genzebe Dibaba, 1500m world record holder, to miss world championships

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Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world record holder, will miss the world track and field championships that start next week due to a right foot injury, according to her agency.

The Ethiopian Dibaba lowered the 1500m world record to 3:50.07 in 2015, then won the world title a month later. Kenyan Faith Kipyegon relegated her to silver at the Rio Olympics. Dibaba was last in the 12-woman final at the 2017 Worlds, then withdrew from the 5000m at that meet, citing illness.

Dibaba’s absence further opens the door for Americans Shelby Houlihan (second-fastest in the world last year) and Jenny Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan is fastest in the world this year and broke the mile world record on July 12. Hassan has range from 800m through 10,000m, and it’s not guaranteed she will contest the 1500m in Doha starting with the first round Oct. 2.

The event is already lacking Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion who took bronze in her world 1500m debut in 2017. Semenya is excluded from races from 400m through the mile under the IAAF’s new rule capping testosterone in those events.

MORE: U.S. roster for track and field worlds

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How to watch, stream U.S. International Classic on NBC Sports Gold

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The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic gets underway in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend and NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will be live streaming all of the action.

The event is the third stop of the ISU’s Challenger Series and often serves as a warm-up for Grand Prix events for skaters, which start in October.

The men’s field is headlined by world bronze medalist and 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou, joined by the 2019 world junior bronze medalist in the ladies’ event, Ting Cui. Reigning U.S. pairs champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc will make their season debut in Salt Lake. And in ice dance, Four Continents gold medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates are slated to compete.

Check out the schedule below (all times Eastern):

Friday, Sept. 19

8:30 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10 p.m.: Men’s short program (LINK)

Saturday, Sept. 20

4:30 p.m.: Rhythm dance (LINK)

6:15 p.m.: Ladies’ short program (LINK)

8:35 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10:30 p.m.: Men’s free skate (LINK)

Sunday, Sept. 21

6:25 p.m.: Free dance (LINK)

8:15 p.m.: Ladies’ free skate (LINK)

MORE: Vincent Zhou to attend Brown University, details new skating situation

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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