Yulia Efimova beats Lilly King at worlds; Simone Manuel pulls upset

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Yulia Efimova and Lilly King are even with one round to go.

The Russian took the latest episode of the Cold War swim rivalry, winning her trademark 200m breaststroke at the world championships in Budapest. Russians won three of the four individual finals Friday.

Earlier, American Simone Manuel won the 100m free in an upset, but Efimova was the clear favorite in the 200m breast. She entered with the top time in the world this year by two seconds.

Efimova passed King, four lanes to her right, with less than 100 meters to go and clocked 2:19.64. American Bethany Galat earned silver in a personal-best time, 2.13 seconds behind Efimova, and then hugged the Russian.

King was fourth and congratulated Efimova afterward, according to Russian media.

“Maybe it would be much faster if I had somebody with whom I can race,” Efimova said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m looking for a world record, but it didn’t happen today. I should keep working.”

Galat, in her first major international meet, came back from seventh place with 50 meters left.

“To be honest, it doesn’t even feel like it happened. It happened so fast,” said Galat, a 21-year-old who missed the Rio team by .13 at Trials.

Galat said she doesn’t share King’s grudge against Efimova.

“I don’t know [Efimova] personally,” Galat said. “She won a gold medal. Her time was incredible. She’s a heck of a swimmer, a heck of a breaststroker, very impressive. She won, of course I’m going to congratulate her.”

King missed bronze by .18 behind Chinese Shi Jinglin, after squeaking into the final by .01 despite ranking No. 2 in the world this year via her U.S. Championships time.

In four career head-to-head events in Rio and Budapest, King won both 100m breast duels, while Efimova finished higher in both 200m breast events. Efimova took Rio silver in the 200m breast, while King failed to make that final.

King and Efimova are both entered in the 50m breast, with the final on Sunday and King the favorite. The 50m breast is not contested at the Olympics.

The women’s 100m free was much closer than the 200m breast on Friday. Manuel stunned world-record holder Sarah Sjöström in an American record 52.27 seconds.

The Swede Sjöström took silver in 52.31, followed by Denmark’s Pernille Blume in 52.69. American Mallory Comerford was fourth.

Sjöström was a heavy favorite going into the final, given she clocked 51.71 leading off the 4x100m free relay Sunday, taking .35 off the world record. Sjöström was .08 faster than her world-record pace at the 50-meter mark, but Manuel passed her in the last 10 meters.

One year ago, Manuel and Canadian Penny Oleksiak were surprise Olympic 100m free co-champions, topping then-world-record holder Cate Campbell of Australia. Campbell skipped worlds.

Manuel became the first U.S. woman to win the world 100m free title since Jenny Thompson in 1998.

Russia won the two individual men’s finals Friday.

Yevgeny Rylov took the 200m backstroke in 1:53.61, with Olympic champion Ryan Murphy nearly chasing him down in the last 50 meters. Murphy ended up six tenths back, followed by countryman Jacob Pebley.

Anton Chupkov upgraded his Rio bronze by moving from fourth to first in the last 50 meters of the 200m breaststroke. Japan took silver and bronze with Yasuhiro Koseki (.33 behind) and world-record holder Ippei Watanabe (.51 back).

Great Britain repeated as world champion in the men’s 4x200m free relay, while a young U.S. quartet held on for bronze behind Russia.

In semifinals, Caeleb Dressel broke the American record in the 50m freestyle and swam the world’s fastest 100m butterfly in eight years to lead the qualifiers into Saturday’s finals. The 20-year-old already has three gold medals in Budapest — two in relays and the 100m freestyle.

South African Chad le Clos failed to make the eight-man 100m butterfly final. Le Clos won the 2013 and 2015 World titles in the 100m fly and bagged the 200m fly gold in Budapest.

Australian Emily Seebohm was the fastest qualifier into the women’s 200m back final Saturday. Seebohm, the 2015 World champion, is joined by 100m back world-record holder Kylie Masse and silver medalist Kathleen Baker, plus Hungarian superstar Katinka Hosszu and 15-year-old American Regan Smith.

Women’s 200m Breaststroke Results
Gold: Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 2:19.64
Silver: Bethany Galat (USA) — 2:21.77
Bronze: Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 2:21.93
4. Lilly King (USA) — 2:22.11
5. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 2:22.23
6. Molly Renshaw (GBR) — 2:22.96
7. Taylor McKeown (AUS) — 2:23.06
8. Jessica Vall (ESP) — 2:23.29

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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