19-year-old US swimmer Lilly King sent a strong message Monday, beating Russian swimmer Yuliya Yefimova in the 100-meter breast stroke to take home the gold medal.
King had set up a rivalry Sunday night when she took offence to Yefimova declaring herself No. 1 after winning a qualifying heat for the 100-meter breakstroke.
Cameras caught King, behind the scenes, watching Yefimova on TV and wagging her finger as if to say “no, no, no.”
Later, when King also finished first in her heat, she raised her finger, mocking Yefimova. She then told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya that she didn’t appreciate the gesture from Yefimova, who once served a 16-month ban for testing positive for a steroid. This year, Yafimova also tested positive for meldonium, the same drug Maria Sharapova is suspended for, but has not been punished.
Fast-forward to Monday night, and King and Yefimova were lined up next to each other in the 100-meter breaststroke final, with a medal on the line. In a white-knuckle race, King took home the gold, beating Yefimova by .57 seconds.
After the race, King twice threw shade at Yefimova, though she did so in a back-handed way. In another interview with Tafoya, who asked if King made a statement by winning, King said the U.S. proved they can “compete clean and still win.”
Later, in a press conference with Yefimova next to her, King again took a jab, saying, “It was so incredible, winning a gold medal and knowing I did it clean.”
That’s top-level trash talk by King — subtle and inoffensve, but pointed enough to send a message.
King is what U.S. Swimming needs.
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