By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Tuesday, July 25, 2017
BUDAPEST – Last night in the semifinals of the women’s 100m breaststroke, Yuliya Efimova of Russia missed the world record by just one-hundredth of a second to capture the top seed heading into Tuesday’s finals.
Did that catch Lilly King’s attention?
You bet it did.
“I’m always looking at results from the heat before, and I saw a little finger wag – I saw it,” King said with a chuckle. “It’s just motivating me more, so that’s OK. It’s going to be a really great race… and I’m excited to see what happens.”
Efimova’s finger wag after last night’s semifinals was a flashback to last year’s Olympic Games, when the same gesture set off a firestorm of controversy between her and the outspoken King, setting up one of the best head-to-head rivalries at the Games.
King came out on top of that one, winning gold in Olympic-record time. It was her first gold medal at a major international competition.
King’s time in last night’s semifinals was four-tenths faster than what she swam in Rio, a fact she found especially encouraging heading into tonight’s finals.
“I went a best time by about a half second,” King said. “I felt pretty good and have some left in the tank… I haven’t shaved yet, so I think we’re going to be good for (tonight).”
As the second seed, King will be swimming right next to Efimova in the middle of the pool. So what’s she going to have to do to get her hands on the wall first?
“Swim faster,” King said.
Also in the mix for Tuesday night’s finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke is King’s teammate, Katie Meili. Meili, who won bronze in this event last year in Rio, qualified fourth in Monday’s semifinals.
Here’s a look at tonight’s other finals:
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Olympian Townley Haas qualified as the sixth seed. He will be competing in his first individual final at a major international meet.
Last year at the Olympic Games in Rio, Haas turned in the fastest leg of all 32 swimmers competing in the 800m free relay.
The last time an American swimmer medaled in this event at Worlds was 2013, when Olympian Conor Dwyer took silver. Ryan Lochte was the last American to win gold at Worlds, in 2011.
Women’s 1500m Free
Katie Ledecky is the top seed in this event by nearly 20 seconds over the next-fastest qualifier. On the first night of competition, Ledecky won two gold medals, set a meet record in the 400m free and helped set an American record in 400m free relay.
In doing so, she won her 10th and 11th career World Championship gold medals, which tied her with Missy Franklin on the all-time list for most gold medals won at Worlds. A gold medal tonight, and Ledecky would stand alone atop that mountain.
The U.S. has won four of the last six gold medals in this event at Worlds, with Ledecky accounting for the last two in 2013 and 2015. She is the world record-holder in the 1500m free at 15:25.48, and holds seven of the 10 fastest performances of all time.
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga will represent the U.S. in this event as the third and fourth seeds.
Competing in her second World Championships, Baker finished eighth in the 100m back in 2015 in Kazan. She then went on to win silver in the 100 back and gold in the 400m medley relay at last year’s Olympic Games.
Smoliga’s best showing on the international stage was a silver in this event at the 2015 Pan American Games. She won the 100 back at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and then finished sixth in Rio. She won Olympic gold as a member of the women’s 400m medley relay, swimming the backstroke leg in prelims. This is her first World Championships.
The last time an American medaled at worlds in this event was 2013, when Missy Franklin won gold.
Men’s 100m Backstroke
Two Olympic champions will represent the U.S. in the finals of the men’s 100m backstroke. World record-holder and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy qualified second, while Matt Grevers – who took gold in London 2012 – is the third seed.
A veteran of four World Championships, Grevers won gold in this event in 2013 and bronze in 2015, and finished seventh in 2009.
Murphy is competing in his second World Championships. In 2015 he won gold in the 400m medley relay and finished fifth in the 400m back. He then went on to win gold in Rio in the 100m back and set the world record while leading off the 400m medley relay.
The top 16 swimmers in most of Tuesday’s prelims will be competing in Tuesday night’s semifinals. The exception are the swimmers in the prelims of the men’s 800m freestyle. The top eight swimmers in that event will compete in Wednesday night’s finals.
American swimmers advancing to tonight’s semifinals will be: Kevin Cordes in the men’s 50m breaststroke (4th, 26.83); Cody Miller in the men’s 50m breaststroke (15th, 27.31); Katie Ledecky in the women’s 200m freestyle (2nd, 1:56.27); Leah Smith in the women’s 200m freestyle (6th, 1:57.04); Jack Conger in the men’s 200m butterfly (8th, 1:56.00); and Pace Clark in the men’s 200m butterfly (11th, 1:56.23).
Zane Grothe was the lone American to qualify for the finals of the men’s 800m free, finishing eighth in this morning’s prelims in 7:50.97. Teammate Clark Smith finished 10th in 7:51.83.
For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.