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Rio Olympics: Why the Women’s 100-Meter Breaststroke Final Is a Must-Watch

Rivalry between America’s Lilly King and Russia’s Yulia Efimova comes to a head tonight

100-meter breaststroke, Lilly King, Yulia Efimova, Katie Meili, Olympic, Rio

American Olympic swimmer Lilly King and Russia's Yulia Efimova's rivalry comes to a head at the Women's 100-Meter Breaststroke Final.

Nolwenn Le Gouic/Icon Sport/Getty

By now, you’ve heard plenty about how great the U.S. men’s basketball and women’s gymnastics teams are. You have memorized how many more gold medals Michael Phelps will add to his collection (so far he has a total of 19). And you are proud how Katie Ledecky is crushing world records. Plus, you’ve consumed a hundred other stories of American dominance that you might be treated to during the Olympic games in Rio this summer. 

But tonight’s final for the women’s 100-meter breaststroke is one of the Olympic events you truly must watch throughout these games. The rivalry between American Lilly King and Russia’s Yulia Efimova has all the makings of one of the all-time greats. Because, really, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned U.S.A. vs. Russia sports action? 

A little trash talking never hurt anybody, and King waving her finger at the television, showing a victorious Efimova who’s best, might become one of the defining moments from these games. While a few people on Twitter called it bad sportsmanship, King, who ended up claiming the top spot for the finals with a brilliant performance, summed up how most fans and other swimmers felt about Efimova being able to compete after she was one of the Russian athletes banned from performing in the Olympics this summer, but was controversially reinstated at the last minute. King’s finger-wagging seemed to gel with the feelings of the crowd who booed the Russian swimmer when she was announced. Undaunted, Efimova, a 2012 bronze medal winner, responded to King by flashing a Number One sign after her own win. 

“It’s not my decision, it’s the IOC’s decision – even though it’s not something I agree with,” King said of Efimova’s reinstatement, not hiding the fact that she, along with many of the other swimmers competing are not happy with the IOC suddenly deciding to put one of the best swimmers in the world, one who has been caught cheating, back into the race without much warning. “You’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating,” King said in an interview with NBC after topping the rest of the field. “I’m just not a fan.”

While it isn’t quite clear how Efimova went from possible lifetime ban to swimming in the finals, there is a legal process to all performance enhancing cases, so there must be a system that overturns certain rulings as well. What is for certain is that no matter what, King and Efimova, the American and the Russian, will provide viewers with one of the must watch events of these Olympics. 

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