Lilly King beats Yulia Efimova again, then laughs with Russian rival

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Lilly King beat Russian Yuliya Efimova again in the 100m breaststroke at the world championships. Then the former heated rivals clasped hands, exchanged pecks on the cheek and laughed with each other minutes later.

King has repeated over the last two years that she and Efimova moved on from their Rio Olympic rivalry, where King called out Efimova for having served a doping ban, causing Efimova to cry at a post-race press conference.

It’s more civil now, King said after the 2017 Worlds, where they embraced and shared a laugh in the pool in Budapest. They appeared just as friendly, if not more, after King beat Efimova in the 100m breast for a third straight major international meet in Gwangju, South Korea on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say we have completely moved on, but we are definitely more cordial than we have been,” said King, who clocked 1:04.93, eight tenths off her world record, to edge Efimova by .58. “Again, that was three years ago. I was 19 and a half. … I think it was blown out of proportion a little bit, the whole situation, but again we’ve both grown up since then. We’ve both moved on, and I think we take this rivalry in stride.”

King and Efimova renew their calmer rivalry twice more at worlds in the 50m and 200m breasts. King won the former at 2017 Worlds, while Efimova won the latter. On Tuesday, Efimova reflected on what happened in Rio.

“If you take Lilly King and ask her if she’d do the same as she did (then), I think she would never say I did it right,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse. “Probably she’d think she did it wrong.”

Worlds continue Wednesday with Caeleb Dressel expected back in action in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley, which could be his third of a possible eight gold medals. There will also be finals in the men’s 800m freestyle, women’s 200m freestyle (sans the ill Katie Ledecky), men’s 200m butterfly and men’s 50m breaststroke.

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Earlier Tuesday, controversial Chinese Sun Yang repeated as 200m freestyle champion despite touching the wall in second. Lithuanian Danas Rapsys beat Sun but was quickly disqualified for twitching on the starting block.

The medal ceremony was a bit of a repeat of Sun’s 400m free title on Sunday. Co-bronze medalist Duncan Scott of Great Britain and Sun did not appear to shake hands before the Chinese anthem. After, Sun turned around as they left the podium, approached Sun and spoke at him, pointing his finger in his face. More on this episode here.

Sun’s 400m free win was followed by Australian silver medalist Mack Horton‘s protest. Only Michael Phelps has more individual world titles (15) than Sun’s 11.

Canadian Kylie Masse repeated as 100m backstroke champion, while American Olivia Smoliga took bronze. World-record holder Kathleen Baker, competing in her first meet in four months due to pneumonia and a broken rib, faded from first at 50 meters to sixth.

Olympic champion Ryan Murphy was also first at the halfway point of the men’s 100m back, but dropped to fourth as China’s Xu Jiayu repeated as world champion.

Italian Simona Quadarella became the first woman other than Ledecky to win the 1500m free world title since 2011, clocking 15:40.89 in Ledecky’s absence. Ledecky’s world record is 15:20.48.

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”