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Lilly King, Yulia Efimova finish swim worlds with truce

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Call it Detente by the Danube.

It seems American swimmer Lilly King has made peace with Russia’s Yulia Efimova.

On the last day of the world championships on Sunday, Efimova and King shared an embrace after King set a world record in the 50m breaststroke final.

Heck, they even seemed to share a joke in a very convivial moment before they left the pool — on the same side.

It would have been unthinkable before, as King frequently needled Efimova with blunt comments about the Russian’s doping violations.

King and Efimova took turns wagging their fingers at each other at the Rio Olympics last year, when King said “I did it clean” after winning their 100m breast showdown.

The rivalry became swimming’s Cold War, but the first sign of a thaw in relations came at the worlds on Friday, when U.S. swimmer Bethany Galat hugged Efimova after the Russian won the 200m breast ahead of King.

“I don’t know her personally, but she won a gold medal and I think her time was incredible,” said Galat, who claimed the bronze. “She’s a heck of a swimmer, a heck of a breaststroker. I mean, she won, of course I’m going to congratulate her.”

King has let her swimming do the talking this week, with world records in the 50m and 100m breast. She also helped the U.S. women to a world record in the medley relay Sunday, four days after playing her part in a world record in the mixed medley relay

“Four world records, so pretty happy with that,” the 20-year-old from Indiana said. “The relay records were kind of the cherry on top. The individual records were definitely something I’ve been looking forward towards since Rio.”

King acknowledged that her relationship with Efimova had improved, though she stressed that the rivalry remained.

“We’re obviously not best friends. We’re rivals, but I always have a good time racing her and it’s definitely been a lot more civil than we were last year, so I’m enjoying that,” King said.

The two swimmers used to make a concerted effort to avoid even eye contact after races, but that all changed after King’s blistering 29.40 in the 50m breast. She smiled sheepishly upon seeing her time, while Efimova put her hand to her mouth and then went over to congratulate the American.

“What happened in a competition before doesn’t matter,” said Efimova, who was clearly happy with her silver medal. She finished with one gold, two silvers and one bronze.

“Today she loved racing me because it makes her faster and me faster, too. And it’s more interesting for sport to watch,” Efimova added.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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