Xu Jiayu

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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MORE: Tokyo Olympic medal forecast has U.S. atop standings

U.S. gets 2 medals in men’s 100m backstroke (video)

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Matt Grevers leaves the world championships with a 100m backstroke silver medal, one year after failing to make the Olympic team.

Ryan Murphy snagged bronze, one year after bagging Olympic gold. But at least Murphy still has his world record.

China’s Xu Jiayu, who in April swam one hundredth shy of Murphy’s 100m backstroke mark, won the world title in a much slower time on Tuesday.

Xu, 21 and the Rio silver medalist, clocked 52.44 to prevail in Budapest. He edged a charging 32-year-old Grevers by .04 and Murphy by .15. Murphy swam 51.97 to win in Rio and then the world record of 51.85 in the Olympic medley relay.

“You’re never going to be happy when it comes down to a tenth, that’s really my thought process right now,” Murphy said, according to USA Swimming.

But this year has belonged to Xu, who had the fastest time in the world going into this week and then led the field in prelims, semis and the final.

Grevers, the 2012 Olympic 100m back champion, considered retiring from elite swimming after finishing third behind Murphy and David Plummer at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

But Grevers, after becoming a dad, powered through to beat Murphy at the USA Swimming National Championships last month to book a world team berth as the oldest member of the squad.

“Even a month ago I would have been ecstatic if you said I could get second place at worlds, but now that I’m here and I was in the race and I wanted to win,” Grevers said, according to USA Swimming. “I guess I’m just inspired to get back to my best.”

Men’s 100m Backstroke Results
Gold: Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.44

Silver: Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.48
Bronze: Ryan Murphy (USA) — 52.59
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 53.03
5. Grigory Tarasevich (RUS) — 53.12
6. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 53.24
7. Guilherme Guido (BRA) — 53.66
8. Corey Main (NZL) — 53.87

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