Lilly King stared toward Yulia Efimova before the race. She glanced at her afterward.
In between, King handed her Russian rival another beating, this time in world-record fashion at the world championships in Budapest on Tuesday.
King won the 100m breaststroke in 1:04.13 to back up her finger-wagging Olympic 100m breast title with her first world title.
Countrywoman Katie Meili earned silver in 1:05.03, followed by Efimova getting bronze in 1:05.05.
“The rivalry is definitely there. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon,” King said, according to The Associated Press. “Obviously, it’s very awkward between the two of us. We’re competitors. We don’t really like each other too much.”
King smashed the previous record of 1:04.35 held by Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, but she didn’t exactly feel confident Tuesday afternoon.
“I was actually, like really freaking out when I got to the pool,” King told media in Budapest. “I was like very nervous. Then I got in for warm-up, and I felt a lot better. I was feeling very confident going into the race.”
Once on the pool deck, King looked very much the trash-talking Indiana Hoosier who in Rio said Efimova shouldn’t be allowed to compete for previously failing two drug tests.
After introductions Tuesday, King stood staring at the lane next to her, where Efimova happened to be. Efimova did not appear to reciprocate.
“It’s always going to be a showdown,” King said, noting how impressed she was by Efimova’s semifinal swim Monday, when the Russian missed the world record by .01 and finger-wagged after.
King smirked, got up on her block and swam the fastest first 50 meters by a half-second over Efimova.
As Efimova faded in the last 25 meters, King surged to the wall. She turned around, saw the scoreboard and slammed her right arm into the pool.
Then she looked ever so briefly toward Efimova’s lane, turned back and raised both of her arms in the air.
Efimova said afterward that last year’s loss hurt more, according to the AP.
“There’s still pressure from the media, but it’s more fun,” Efimova reportedly said. “The Olympic Games were the worst.”
King and Efimova are slated to go head to head again in finals of the 200m breaststroke (Friday) and 50m breaststroke (Sunday). They are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in both events this year.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke Results
Gold: Lilly King (USA) — 1:04.13
Silver: Katie Meili (USA) — 1:05:03
Bronze: Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 1:05.05
4. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) — 1:05.65
5. Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 1:06.43
6. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 1:06.90
7. Jessica Vall (ESP) — 1:06.95
8. Sarah Vasey (GBR) — 1:07.19
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