Yuliya Efimova is a breaststroke specialist from Russia. Efimova’s last name is a bit Romanized, so she can also be known by a last name, Yefimova. Standing 5’10” Efimova is one of the world’s most elite breaststrokers.
2008 and 2012 Olympics
As just a 16-year-old swimmer, Efimova swam at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she failed to win a medal when she finished fourth in the 100m breaststroke and fifth in the 200m. Four years later at the 2012 London Olympics, Efimova won the bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke behind the American’s Rebecca Soni.
In spring 2014, as a recent world champion, Efimova tested positive for doping in an out-of-competition test. She tested positive for the steroid, DHEA, which she says came from a supplement from a GNC store — Efimova trains at Club Trojan (USC) in Los Angeles, where she purchased the supplement.
She was slapped with a 16-month suspension for doping, after the test came back positive in fall 2013. Efimova had a potentially longer ban than 16 months, but the length made her eligible for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, her home country. Efimova chose to not appeal the ban, stating that she knows she made a mistake.
2013 FINA World Championships
After competing at London, Efimova trained for the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. She won the gold in the 200m breaststroke as well as the 50m breaststroke, breaking the World Record in the 50m distance. In the 100m breaststroke, she won a silver medal behind Meilutyte, who is her biggest competition.
December 2013 she broke Rebecca Soni’s World Record in the 200m breaststroke at the European Short Course Championships. In comparing the two great swimmers, Efimova’s third 50 is what made all the difference.
After her 16-month suspension, Efimova competed at the 2015 Russian National Championships. Almost instantly her performances in the 50m and 100m breaststroke put her on top of the world rankings in the events. At the 2015 Santa Clara Grand Prix where she went 3-for-3 in the breaststroke events representing Club Trojan.
2015 FINA World Championships
Efimova competed at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan in her signature breaststroke events. Coming out of the semi-finals in the 50-meter breaststroke, Efimova finished third in a dead-heat of breaststroke talent – only one second divided the final eight swimmers. In the final Efimova swam nearly an identical time to grab a bronze medal in the 50-meter distance.
Efimova also competed in the 100 breast, an event that she’s been ranked high in the world rankings as of recent. Coming out of the semi-finals, she finished on top of the field just .04 seconds ahead of rival, Ruta Meilutyte. In the final of the 100-meter distance, Meilutyte decided to take the first 50 meters out fast, leaving Efimova behind by about half-a-second. That eased first 50 proved to be effective for Effimova though as Meilutyte began to drop off, and Efimova took the gold medal by nearly a second.
2016 Rio Olympics
Prior the 2016 Olympics Efimova’s doping history gained worldwide media attention. Efimova had been suspended for positive drug tests twice, both times claiming innocence.
In October 2013, Efimova tested positive for the drug 7-keto-DHEA in an out of competition drug test. (See https://examine.com/supplements/7-keto-dhea/ and http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-835-7-keto-dhea.aspx?activeingredientid=835 ). At the time Efimova tested positive she had only been living in the USA for a short time and knew very little English. Efimova stated she did not understand the salesperson who sold her the supplements. Efimova was banned for 16 months.
Training for the 2016 Olympics, Efimova was suspended again, March 14th, for the drug meldonium. (Meldonium is produced in Latvia under the commercial name Mildronate.) However, Efimova had her suspension lifted and received clearance to compete, but was then suspended again having lost her appeal just before the Rio Olympics. Ultimately FINA, swimming’s international governing body, on the day of Opening Ceremonies cleared Efimova to compete (less than two days before the 100m breast preliminaries), stating Yefimova had committed no fault or negligence.
Efimova’s participation in the 2016 Olympics was controversial in light of her doping history and the ongoing doping scandal within the Russian Olympic Team.
Having been cleared just days before her first swim in Rio, Efimova was booed by the crowd. Moreover, Team USA’s Lilly King was outspoken about her opponent’s doping history. Efimova finished second in the 100m breaststroke to King. She then took another silver in the 200m breaststroke.
2017 FINA World Championships
On day three the highly anticipated showdown between Efimova and Lilly King in the women’s 100m breaststroke final did not disappoint. King was out fast, splitting 29.80 at the 50. Efimova, a great closer, was expected to gain ground on the second 50, but King surged with the fastest back half of the field, splitting a 34.33 on the way home to clip the World Record with a 1:04.13. (The former record stood at a 1:04.35 done by Ruta Meilutyte in 2012.) USA teammate, Katie Meili was second, 1:05.03. Efimova got on the podium with a bronze in 1:05.05.
Day six in the 200m breaststroke final, Russia’s Efimova held a steady pace through the front half, waiting to make her move on the 3rd 50. She took off and built a sizeable lead over the field down the stretch, winning by 2 seconds in 2:19.64. With that, she was just half a second shy of the World Record.
Day eight in the 50m breaststroke final Efimova won silver behind Team USA rival Lilly King. King broke the world record in 29.40. Efimova was right with her for most of the race, but was edged at the end. Efimova still swam a great race, 29.57, just .o5 off her lifetime best, 29.52.
Efimova swam the breaststroke leg on Russia’s European record setting 4x100m medley relay which finished second to the US. Efimova teamed with Anastasia Fesikova, Svetlana Chimrova and Veronika Popova to finish almost a second ahead of bronze medal winners, Australia.