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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