Yulia Efimova in line to miss her primary event at Olympics

Yulia Efimova
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Yulia Efimova finished a distant third in the Russian Olympic Trials 200m breaststroke and, barring an exception, will not swim her best event at the Olympics, missing a second showdown with American Lilly King in Tokyo.

Efimova, 29, finished second in the 100m breast earlier at Russia’s trials and is in line to swim that event in Tokyo, which she said will likely be her last Olympics, according to Russian media.

She has raced both the 100m and 200m breast at every Olympics and world championships since 2008 and earned a medal in nine of the 10 races dating to the 2013 Worlds.

Efimova, the two-time reigning world champion and second-fastest woman in history in the 200m breast, clocked 2:24.16 in that final on Thursday, 4.75 seconds off her personal best from 2013.

She was 2.53 seconds behind winner Yevgeniya Chikunova and 1.4 seconds behind runner-up Mariya Temnikova.

A nation may enter no more than two swimmers in an individual event at the Olympics. Typically, that’s the top two finishers at an Olympic Trials.

In 2019, Efimova was also third in the 200m breast at Russian Nationals, also behind Chikunova and Temnikova. Efimova replaced the national champion Chikunova on the roster for world championships. Chikunova, then 14, went to the junior worlds instead and swept the 100m and 200m breast titles.

At senior worlds, Efimova repeated as gold medalist, this time by a whopping 2.35 seconds.

After her third-place finish on Thursday, Efimova said she will do what she’s told and wished luck to the other swimmers, while also noting the 25-year-old Temnikova’s bare major international record save one European Championships, according to Sport-Express. Temnikova won the 200m breast at the 2019 European Short Course Championships (25-meter pool).

In 2016, Efimova was initially barred from the Olympics under an IOC mandate that any Russian who previously served a doping ban would be ineligible due to the country’s anti-doping violations at that time.

She appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled that IOC stipulation unenforceable.

Efimova was banned 16 months between 2013 and 2015 after testing positive for a steroid. A FINA panel ruled that Efimova was not intentionally trying to cheat but was negligent in failing to read the label of a GNC store supplement. She relied on a salesperson’s assurance after asking if it was “doping-free.”

In Rio, King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room and beat the Russian in the 100m breast the next night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding after the Games, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King and Efimova, while dueling at the last two world championships, have embraced.

King’s primary event is the 100m breast. She is the reigning Olympic and world champion and world-record holder. Efimova, after silver in Rio, took bronze and silver in the 100m breast behind King at worlds in 2017 and 2019.

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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