Russia vs. U.S.: a tense race, a strained aftermath

Tue Aug 9, 2016 9:56am EDT
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By Mark Trevelyan and Jack Stubbs

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The women's 100 meters breaststroke final at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Monday had already crackled with tension in a tight finish but it was nothing compared to what transpired afterwards.

American Lilly King held off fast-finishing Russian Yulia Efimova to clinch the title, with fellow American Katie Meili winning bronze. King broke the Olympic record to win.

If the race itself was nail-biting, the aftermath was excruciating given King had stoked the flames beforehand, speaking out against the inclusion of Efimova after she successfully appealed a ban imposed for past doping suspensions.

After the victory ceremony, the two Americans wrapped themselves together in the Stars and Stripes. Efimova, who had broken down in tears, stood awkwardly to one side.

The three were then obliged to attend a joint media conference that was dominated by the issue of doping, especially since King had criticized the Russian for raising her finger in victory after winning her semi-final.

"You're shaking your finger 'number one' and you've been caught for drug cheating," she had told reporters on Sunday. "I'm not a fan."

With Efimova booed every time she stepped onto the pool deck, the pressure had been on the American to beat the Russian world champion, though the 19-year-old said she felt that any Olympic final was full of tension.

"Even just going in to your first Olympic final, any Olympic final for that matter, the pressure is going to be on," she said. "But especially standing up for what I believe is right, I felt that I needed to perform and do better than I had in the past.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Victory Ceremony - Women's 100m Breaststroke Victory Ceremony - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Gold medallist Lilly King (USA) of USA and silver medallist Yulia Efimova (RUS) of Russia celebrate with their national flags. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler