2019 World Champs Previews: King & Efimova Go 1:03-Hunting In Women’s 100 BR


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
  • Meet site
  • FinaTV Live Stream
  • Live results


  • World Record: 1:04.13, Lilly King (USA), 2017
  • World Championship Record: 1:04.13, Lilly King (USA), 2017
  • World Junior Record: 1:05.21, Ruta Meilutyte (LTU), 2013
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: 1:04.13, Lilly King (USA)

It’s one of swimming’s greatest rivalries with two of its most colorful personalities.

Lilly King is so close to the stereotype of the brash American you can’t help but wonder if that’s exactly what she’s aiming for. Maybe it’s some sort of modern-day marketing stunt. King is fearless with her words. Brash, supremely confident and very convinced of her own training intensity, King rides a wave of momentum and is all-but-unshakable in the big moments. She’s a pure power swimmer, strongly-built with a breaststroke that moves a ton of water.

Russia’s Yulia Efimova swims the stroke a completely different way. Taller and leaner than King, she’s an efficiency swimmer, smooth and graceful with excellent distance per stroke. Efimova moves through the water with ease. But as King represents the traits fairly or unfairly associated with her country, so does Efimova. She’s had multiple scrapes with anti-doping regulations, taking a 16-month suspension back in 2014 and narrowly avoiding a lifetime ban with another violation in 2016.

King beat Efimova in this event by about six tenths at the Rio Olympics, with tensions between the two heating up. King called out Efimova’s spotty history with banned substances and wagged her finger at Efimova through a TV screen during semifinals. Then in 2017, King smashed the world record ahead of Efimova in this race, with teammate Katie Meili touching out Efimova for silver.

Efimova appears to be winding up for a revenge tour, though. She won all three breaststrokes at Euros last summer and led the world ranks with a 1:04.98 – the only sub-1:05 swum worldwide last year. King, meanwhile, won gold at Pan Pacs in 1:05.44, perhaps more focused on the 200 breast where she needed a big performance to get back onto the U.S. Worlds roster. Efimova also put up the fastest 100 breast split in history (1:03.95) while King was just 1:04.8 on an American relay that lost badly to Australia.

While those two are likely 1:05s and potential 1:04s or better, the rest of the field is absolutely littered with probably 1:06 types. Getting into the final is going to be a mad dash, even with some notable names absent.


  • 2017 silver medalist Meili is retired, as is 4th-placer and former world record-holder Ruta Meilutyte.
  • Molly Hannis ranked 3rd in the world last year, but missed the U.S. Worlds team.
  • Japan will only enter one swimmer here, leaving 2018 Asian Games champ Satomi Suzuki home along with 2016 Olympic semifinalist Kanako Watanabe.

Returning 2017 Worlds Finalists

China’s Shi Jinglin was fifth last time around at Worlds, and won bronze at Asian Games last summer. But we can’t find record of a swim from her yet this season. Shi was 1:07.3 at Asian Games last year and 1:06.7 domestically, but she’ll probably need to be more at her 1:06.2-pace from 2015 to fight for a medal.

Canada’s Kierra Smith took a controversial DQ in her best event, the 200 breast, at Canadian Trials, and she needed a lifetime-best 1:06.54 in the 100 to make the Canadian team. She’s now a medal threat here, though, after taking 6th in 2017 and silver at Commonwealths last summer.

Jessica Vall of Spain is the final returner from the championship heat. She’s another swimmer better at the 200, but with a medal shot here. Vall has been 1:06.4 in her career, and already went 1:06.6 this season.

Big Medalists Last Summer

Last season in the world ranks, there were 14 women between 1:05.9 and 1:06.9, and most of them will be competing for A finals spots in 2019. Most of them won major medals last summer, looking to springboard into the World Championships year:

Japan’s Reona Aoki is the next in a line of good Japanese breaststrokers. She won Asian Games silver (1:06.45) and Pan Pacs bronze (1:06.34) last year, while going 1:05.90 in domestic competition.

Just ahead of Aoki at Pan Pacs was Australian Jessica Hansenwho blasted a 1:06.20 for silver behind King. Hansen hadn’t been under 1:07 prior to last July, and her fast rise is a big reason why the Australian medley relay has become a true world power. Hansen has only been 1:06.9 so far this year, but has a great chance at a medal if she can perform as well as she did against elite competition last summer.

Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni was the Euros bronze medalist (1:06.54). Italy is building its way toward being a world swimming power, and their roster showed up in full force last summer. Castiglioni could be a key medal-winner if the team shows up with the same kind of fire in 2019.

The young swimmer to watch, though, is Tatjana Schoenmaker out of South Africa. She rose to win 100 and 200 breast golds last year at Commonwealth Games, beating a good crew of Canadian and British threats. Schoenmaker, 22, was even better this year, winning both events at World University Games / Summer Universiade.

Others to watch:

  • Russia has a second medal threat in Anna Belousovawho is dropping time fast. She was a 1:07.7 prior to this spring, when she cut to 1:06.34 at Russian Nationals.
  • The second American is Micah Sumrallwho had a breakout national meet last summer. Sumrall is probably better in the 200 breast, but did go a personal-best 1:06.34 in the 100 last year.
  • Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson is always a threat. A former Worlds bronze medalist in this event, Atkinson has been as fast as 1:05.93 – but hasn’t done so since 2015. More recently, she was 1:06.5 at the Rio Olympics and has only been 1:08.00 this season, so a high 1:06 or low 1:07 is probably about right for what to expect from Atkinson at age 30.

Top 8 Picks


Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Lilly King USA 1:05.13 1:04.13
2 Yulia Efimova Russia 1:05.51 1:04.36
3 Reona Aoki Japan 1:06.44 1:05.90
4 Jessica Hansen Australia 1:06.91 1:06.20
5 Tatjana Schoenmaker South Africa 1:06.32 1:06.32
6 Kierra Smith Canada 1:06.54 1:06.54
7 Anna Belousova Russia 1:06.34 1:06.34
8 Jessica Vall Spain 1:06.67 1:06.44

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1 year ago

Sumrall not in the final??? She closes like a train and doesn’t wear a piano. I think she gets up for fourth or fifth.

Reply to  Heyitsme
1 year ago

A lot of people sleeping in her. Only reason she didn’t make the Olympic team in 2016 was due to her start. I agree completely with your statement, but won’t be surprised if she medals.

Reply to  Adam
1 year ago

Yep, she could win the 200 also.

1 year ago

1. Lily King 1:04.45
2. Yulia Efimova 1:05.26
3. Tatjana Schoenmaker 1:06.05
4. Micah Sumrall 1:06.33
5. Kierra Smith 1:06.34
6. Anna Belousova 1:06.79
7. Jessica Vall 1:06.89
8. Arianna Castiglioni 1:07.18

Reply to  SeanSwim
1 year ago

Times too slow

Reply to  Heyitsme
1 year ago

I don’t really think so.
Here are the results for 2017 worlds:

1 Lilly King United States 1:04.13 WR
2 Katie Meili United States 1:05.03
3 Yuliya Yefimova Russia 1:05.05
4 Rūta Meilutytė Lithuania 1:05.65
5 Shi Jinglin China 1:06.43
6 Kierra Smith Canada 1:06.90
7 Jessica Vall Spain 1:06.95
8 Sarah Vasey Great Britain 1:07.19

With Meili and Meilutyte out, I only see 2 people under 1:06, King and Efimova. Schoenmaker has a great chance as well, it depends on how rested and prepared she was for WUGs.

Reply to  SeanSwim
1 year ago

Yeah but after NCAAs this year, Lilly has shown she is able to take it to the next level. 55 in the 100 yard breast is just insane.

Reply to  SeanSwim
1 year ago

Jess Hansen will final I think

1 year ago

You’d think Sumrall gets in the final (if not medal)

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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