An interview with Russian National Team head coach Sergey Chepik in the All-Russia Swimming Federation newsletter this week seems to confirm that Yulia Efimova will stick to just the 100 meter breaststroke for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The 29-year old Efimova is the two-time defending World Champion, and three-time World Champion overall, in the 200 breaststroke in long course meters. One of the more surprising results from Russia’s Olympic Trials in April, though, was when she finished just 3rd in that event in 2:24.16. That meant, in theory, that she would lose the Olympic spot to 16-year old Evgeniia Chikunova (2:21.63) and Maria Temnikova (2:22.76).
This happened once before in Russia, however, at the 2019 World Championship Trials, and Russia found room for Efimova to defending her World Title at the 2019 World Championships, which she did successfully. That year, they sent the then-14-year-old Chikunova to the European Junior and World Junior Championships instead, freeing up a spot for Efimova to race alongside Temnikova at Worlds.
Without the same obvious path to a vacant spot, it appears as though Efimova is content to focus her efforts on the 100 breaststroke instead.
But Chepik says that Efimova indicated that she considered pulling out of the 200 breaststroke even at the Olympic Trials meet. He believes that she can do more in the 100 by focusing on that race.
Efimova was the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, and finished 2nd behind American rival Lilly King in the 100 at the 2019 World Championships.
While Chikunova won the 100 breaststroke at the Russian Olympic Trials as well, a full-strength Efimova is still expected to be the country’s top contender in the shorter distance. The Russian women qualified a 400 medley relay for the Olympic Games, but finished in just 12th place to miss a spot at finals at the World Championships.
If Efimova can come up to speed in the 100 breaststroke, Russia does have an outside shot at a medal in the medley relay – thanks in part to improvements by Maria Kameneva and Arina Surkova.
Other Highlights from the Chepik interview:
- Veronika Andrusenko, Anastasia Guzhenkova, and Valeria Salamatina are training as part of the National Team, on the chance that Russia is able to qualify an 800 free relay for the Olympic Games. Chepik says that he believes that for a team as large as Russia’s, participation in relays is a matter of prestige.
- He doesn’t expect the composition of the Russian team to change as a result of the European Championships, only if something “extraordinary” happens.
- Anastasia Kirpichnikova is going to attempt to qualify for the Olympic Team in open water after setting Russian Records in both the 800 and 1500 in December and then winning the 1500 at Russia’s Olympic Trials. Kirpichnikova didn’t swim open water at the 2019 World Championships, but neither of the country’s two entries in the women’s 10k were close to qualifying for the Olympics, so it would take a top 9 (or continental) finish at June’s Olympic Qualifying race for a Russian to swim that event in Tokyo. Chepik says that he is supportive of her doing the double. Open water racing comes after pool racing at the Tokyo Olympics.