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Sarah Sjöström joins Katie Ledecky, Aussies in worlds 200m freestyle

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The women’s 200m freestyle was arguably the most anticipated event of this next week’s world swimming championships. And that was before Sarah Sjöström joined the field.

Sjöström, who was not expected to race the 200m free at worlds, is entered in the event and plans to swim it, according to Sweden’s swimming federation.

The Swede was the closest of any swimmer in any event to Katie Ledecky at the Rio Olympics, finishing .35 behind for silver in the 200m free. Sjöström outsplit Ledecky in the last 50 meters in Rio.

But Sjöström hasn’t contested the 200m free at worlds since 2013, preferring the 50m and 100m freestyles and butterflies. Sjöström is the world-record holder in all four of those shorter events and won three of them at the 2017 Worlds.

Sjöström might not be Ledecky’s biggest threat in the 200m free this month. Italian Federica Pellegrini, the 2008 Olympic champion, is the reigning world champion. Canadian Taylor Ruck, a rising Stanford sophomore, beat Ledecky at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

Australian Ariarne Titmus, 18, has the fastest time in the world this year. Another Aussie, Emma McKeon, who tied Ledecky for silver at 2017 Worlds, has also been faster than Ledecky this year.

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Lilly King beats Yuliya Efimova twice as rivalry resumes at FINA Champions Series

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Lilly King defeated Yuliya Efimova in a 200m breaststroke for the first time, then beat her Russian rival again 45 minutes later in the 50m breast for good measure.

King won the headline races at the FINA Champions Series stop in Indianapolis on Friday night, taking down Efimova in their first head-to-heads since the 2017 World Championships.

King, the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, gave up the lead in Friday’s 200m breast, then took it back to beat Efimova by two tenths of a second in the Russian’s trademark distance. King clocked a personal-best 2:21.39, the second-fastest time in the world this year.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” King said.

Quite an effort from King, who just completed her NCAA career at Indiana while teaching at a Bloomington middle school. King missed the Rio Olympic final in the 200m breast and was fourth at 2017 Worlds, won by Efimova.

Friday’s 50m breast went truer to form. King, who lowered the world record to 29.4 at 2017 Worlds, beat Efimova by three tenths in 29.63. In the last event of the night, King and Efimova swam on the same mixed-gender relay team (drawn randomly) that finished fourth.

Remember that King sparked a rivalry with Efimova at the Rio Olympics, wagging her finger at a ready-room TV showing the Russian. King was not a fan of Efimova being allowed to compete after serving a doping ban. The next day, King relegated the 2015 World champion Efimova to silver in the 100m breast.

“It’s a lot less tense in the ready room,” now, King told media afterward. “At some point, we grow up and move on.”

Full FINA Champions Series results are here.

FINA Champions Series meets feature four swimmers per individual event. The two-day Indianapolis meet concludes Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

In other events Friday, Ryan Murphy won a battle of Olympic champions in the 100m backstroke over Matt Grevers. The world-record holder clocked 52.99 seconds, moving to third in the world this year behind rivals Xu Jiayu and Evgeny Rylov.

Chase Kalisz topped all-American fields in the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley. Kalisz’s biggest competition in the IMs at worlds should be Japan’s Daiya Seto, who is not in Indy.

In the 200m backstroke, Italian Margherita Panziera took down Olympic and world silver medalist Katinka Hosszu and Canadian Kylie Masse, the fastest in the world in 2018. Panziera clocked 2:06.64, edging Hosszu by three tenths.

Panziera, 23, didn’t make it out of the heats in Rio and was eliminated in the semifinals at 2017 Worlds. But this year, she has the world’s fastest time of 2:05.72, which would have won the 2016 Olympics.

Swede Sarah Sjöström extended her 100m butterfly dominance, beating U.S. champion Kelsi Dahlia by 1.13 in 56.42. It’s the fastest time in the world this year for the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder. Sjöström added a 100m free title 40 minutes later against a field that did not include Olympic and world champ Simone Manuel.

Anthony Ervin, who in Rio shattered the record for oldest individual Olympic swimming gold medalist at age 35, took fourth in the 50m freestyle, 1.03 seconds behind Russian Vladimir Morozov, who clocked 21.65. World champion Caeleb Dressel was not in the field.

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Caeleb Dressel, Sarah Sjöström take FINA Swimmer of the Year honors

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One more honor for Caeleb Dressel to cap a breakout 2017 — FINA Male Swimmer of the Year.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström won Female Swimmer of the Year.

Dressel won seven gold medals at the world championships in July, matching Michael Phelps‘ record, though Dressel had the benefit of mixed-gender relays that weren’t around in the Phelps era.

Dressel’s performances at worlds also led him to win USA Swimming’s Male Athlete of the Year award and be a finalist for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s annual male athlete honor. Kyle Snyder won the latter.

The 21-year-old Dressel took the FINA honor via the swimming body’s points formula that could use a little more detailed explanation.

The other top swimmers this year were Brit Adam Peaty (world’s top breaststroker), Chinese Sun Yang (world champion in 200m and 400m freestyles) and American Chase Kalisz (swept individual medleys at worlds).

Dressel joins Ryan LochteMissy FranklinKatie Ledecky, Phelps and Jordan Wilimovsky (open water) as the only Americans to take home FINA Swimmer of the Year honors. They have been handed out since 2010.

Sjöström, 24, won the 50m and 100m butterflies and the 50m freestyle at worlds. She also broke the 50m and 100m free world records.

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who swept the individual medleys at worlds for a third straight time, won the last three FINA Female Swimmer of the Year awards.

Katie Ledecky, who had her best medal haul at a major meet ever (five golds, one silver), won the FINA award once in 2013. Ledecky would score higher in FINA’s rankings system if she competed in World Cups, which the majority of the top Americans skip.

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