Lilly King saw the finger wag from her Russian rival Monday.
We’ll see who is trash-talking on Tuesday.
During today’s 100-meter breaststroke semifinals at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary, the battle lines were again drawn when Russia’s Yulia Efimova and Team USA’s Lilly King each won their semifinal heats with their career best times.
Efimova’s heat was first and she posted a 1:04.36, which is just one-hundredth of a second off the world record time of Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte. When Efimova saw her time, she looked into the TV camera and wagged a finger. She knew King would be watching.
“I’m always looking at the results from the heat before,” King told reporters later. “I saw a little finger wag. I saw it. It’s motivating me more, so that’s OK.”
An Evansville native and Indiana University swimmer, King wasn’t quite up to the challenge Monday. In her second swim of the day, she relinquished the favorite’s role she had momentarily claimed in the morning qualifying heats by coming up 17th hundredths of a second slower than Efimova. King posted a time of 1:04.53.
In the morning heats, King was faster than Efimova by 0.40th of a second, swimming a 1:05.20 to Efimova’s 1:05.60.
Tuesday’s finals will be roughly mid-afternoon for those of us in the Central time zone, likely around 2 p.m. The race can be viewed online at fina.org or, if you have a complete cable sports package, on NBC’s Olympic/Sports Channel.
Monday’s finger wag by Efimova was reminiscent of the cold-shoulder war she and King waged last summer in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympics. Only then, King responded by topping Efimova’s semifinal time and then went out the next night and set an Olympic record to win the gold.
At the Olympics King called out Efimova and the IOC for the Russian’s late reinstatement after having served a 16-month ban for testing positive for a performance-enhancing steroid.
King raised the issue when asked about Efimova’s finger-wagging in Rio, which she responded with a finger-wag of her own.
“You’ve been caught for drug cheating. I’m just not a fan,” said King a year ago about Efimova.
Monday’s revival of the rivalry is just the beginning of the fireworks this week. The two are expected to square off in the 200-meter breaststroke finals on Friday and 50-meter breaststroke on Sunday. Qualifying for those events will be a day earlier, in the overnight hours Central time (around 2 a.m.) because Budapest is seven hours later than Evansville time.
Here is the link to the competition schedule: