Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Previews: King vs Efimova Again in the 100 Breast

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Women’s 100 Breaststroke

One of the most well-known rivalries on the Olympic swimming stage is between Team USA’s Lilly King and Russia’s Yulia Efimova, the top two swimmers in the 100 breast since the 2016 Olympics.

Yuliya Efimova (photo: Jack Spitser)

In Rio, Efimova won the first 100 breast semifinal and wagged her finger to show the number “one.” This was amid her own doping controversy (she had had two doping infractions during her career and was cleared to compete in Rio the day of the 100 breast prelims race.)

King won the second semifinal two and wagged her finger in response. She explained the move to an NBC reporter: “You wave your finger number one and you’ve been caught drug cheating…I’m not a fan,” King said. 

King won gold in the event about .60 ahead of silver medalist Efimova. Team USA’s Katie Meili, who has since retired, won bronze. Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, the World Record holder before King broke her record in 2017, has also retired

Efimova and King are set to showdown in this event yet again in Tokyo. Their most recent duel was at the 2017 World Championships where King blasted the World Record time of 1:04.13 to win gold. Efimova swam a 1:04.36 in the semifinals, but finished 3rd in the final after Meili with a 1:05.05.

King’s World Record and Efimova’s 1:04.36 are still the fastest 100 breast times since the 2016 Rio Olympics:

Top Times During 2016-2021 Olympic Cycle 

  1. 1:04.13 – Lilly King, USA 
  2. 1:04.36 – Yuliya Efimova, RUS 
  3. 1:05.03 – Katie Meili, USA 
  4. 1:05.06 – Ruta Meilutyte, LTU
  5. 1:05.28 – Lydia Jacoby, USA)
  6. 1:05.37 – Annie Lazor, USA 
  7. 1:05.67 – Arianna Castiglioni, ITA 
  8. 1:05.69 – Sophie Hansson, SWE 
  9. 1:05.74 – Tatjana Shoenmaker, RSA 
  10. 1:05.75 – Bethany Galat, USA 

King will be racing the 100 breast and 200 breast while Efimova is only scheduled to race the 100 breast, according to Russia’s Olympic roster. The two-time World Champion already said she would be focusing on the 100, though, back in May.

But this event is no longer a two-woman show. The women’s 100 breast field has gotten significantly more competitive in the past 18 months, compared to the global 100 breast field in 2016.

For example, 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby of Team USA earned her spot among the top breaststrokers in the world by posting a 1:05.28 at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. She will represent the U.S. alongside King in Tokyo. 

Jacoby grabbed the world’s attention when she raced King and King’s training partner Annie Lazor at the 2021 Mission Viejo Pro Swim Series in April. She took 2nd place behind King with a 1:06.38. 

That was a lifetime best for Jacoby, which she promptly destroyed two months later at the U.S. Olympic Trials with a 1:05.28.

They are ranked 1-2 in the world this season:

2020-2021 World Rankings

  1. Lilly King (USA) – 1:04.72
  2. Lydia Jacoby (USA) – 1:05.28
  3. Annie Lazor (USA) – 1:05.37
  4. Arianna Castiglioni (ITA) – 1:05.67
  5. Sophie Hansson (SWE) – 1:05.69
  6. Tatjana Shoenmaker (RSA) – 1:05.74
  7. Bethany Galat (USA) – 1:05.75
  8. Bendetta Pilato (ITA) – 1:05.84
  9. Martina Carraro (ITA) – 1:05.86
  10. Chelsea Hodges (AUS) – 1:05.99

This season the 100 breast has been a relatively American-dominated event. Note that USA’s Lazor and Bethany Galat will not contest the event, although they are among the top 10 fastest 100 breaststrokers since the Rio Olympics. Lazor will compete in the 200 breast alongside King in Tokyo.

Sophie Hansson at DI Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships on March 20, 2021 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

CARRARO Martina, Fiamme Azzurre
100 rana donne
Riccione 02/04/2021 Stadio del Nuoto
Campionati Italiani Assoulti primaverili di Nuoto 2021
Photo © Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

At the recent European Championships in May, Sweden’s Sophie Hansson showed her dominance in this event by winning gold with a time of 1:05.69. Arianna Castiglioni of Italy won silver (1:06.13) and her teammate Martina Carraro claimed bronze .09 after her.

Efimova finished 4th with a 1:06.33, .10 off her season-best time from April. But she did bounce back at the Mare Nostrum Series in June, sweeping the 50, 100, and 200 breast. 

22-year-old Hansson has made significant progress in this event since 2016. She finished in 27th place in the 100 breast at the Rio Olympics with a time of 1:08.67.

While Castiglioni posted a lifetime best time of 1:05.67 at the 58th Sette Colli meet, she will not be swimming this event in Tokyo. She is qualified only for the 4×100 medley relay.

Instead, it will be 50 breast World Record holder Benedetta Pilato and Carraro in the individual 100 breast. 16-year-old Pilato’s season-best 100 breast time of 1:05.84 is just .02 faster than Carraro’s.

Benedetta Pilato

2021 LEN European Junior Championship
courtesy of Andrea Masini Deepbluemedia

Together they make up one of Italy’s first domestic breaststroke fields. Italy did not make the semifinals in this event at the 2016 Olympics.

Tatjana Schoenmaker

XXX Summer universiade – World University Games – courtesy of Giusy Cisale Swimswam

South Africa’s Tatjana Shoenmaker is ranked 6th in the world this season and this will be her Olympic debut after RSA did not bring women to the Rio Olympics for swimming. 

She set about crushing all six South African National records in breaststroke events in 2020 and 2021, taking down all three long course records at the recent South African Championships in April.  This includes the 1:05.74 which ranks the 24-year-old 6th in the world this year.

Australia’s Chelsea Hodges is one of only ten women to crack 1:06.00 in the event this season, earning her #10 in the world this year. 20-year-old Hodges helped the Australian 4×100 medley relay to a silver medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Country Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Lilly King USA 1:04.13
2 Yulia Efimova RUS 1:04.36
3 Lydia Jacoby USA 1:05.28
4 Benedetta Pilato ITA 1:05.84
5 Sophie Hansson SWE 1:05.89
6 Tatjana Shoenmaker RSA 1:05.74
7 Martina Carraro ITA  1:05.86
8 Chelsea Hodges AUS 1:05.99

Dark Horse: Tang Qianting (CHN) – Qianting had a phenomenal meet at the first Chinese Olympic Trials in May, by becoming the second all-time fastest 100 breaststroker in Chinese history. She posted a time of 1:06.04 to be ranked 11th in the world this year going into the Olympic Games. It took a 1:06.73 to make the Olympic final in Rio and Qianting has a solid chance of edging someone out for a spot in the Olympic final in Tokyo.

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2 months ago
  1. King
  2. Pilato
  3. Jacoby
  4. Schoenmaker
  5. Hansson
  6. Efimova
  7. Carraro
  8. Renshaw

Unpopular opinion – but – I feel like Pilato will have a massive drop.

Last edited 2 months ago by wow
Reply to  wow
2 months ago


It’s King vs Jacoby.

Reply to  wow
2 months ago
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

At the very least, Efimova should make the final. Enough with the snotty comments. Also, not everyone swims the fastest time of the season at the Games.

Reply to  wow
2 months ago
Last edited 2 months ago by Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
M d e
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

Why do you act like every swimmer in the world is going to swim exactly their best time this season at the olympics?

I bet you don’t think Ledecky has no shot at Titmus in the 400.

Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

Has “SWUM”. Swim, swam, swum!!!!! 3rd grade English class. Where were you.

Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  wow
2 months ago

I think she’ll drop time as well.
She’s still some way off her best in 50 breast when she swam 1:05.8 in 100 at the same meet.
But will the drop be massive enough for her to get silver? I’m not sure.

Last edited 2 months ago by Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
2 months ago

The Italian with the hot hand is Castiglioni not Pilato.

Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

We should wait until after the Olympics to draw the conclusions.
Castiglioni didn’t know she’s added to Olympics roster as a relay athlete until the last minute. She may have already given her all at Euros (should have been her only international meet this year) and Sette colli trophy (should have been her last competition of the season). Pilato and Carraro will save their best for Tokyo.

Last edited 2 months ago by Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

Which of my sentences shows disrespect for Hansson? The only thing I was arguing is that we should wait until the Olympics to conclude who the best Italian is in this event.

2 months ago

The doper is done, finished, kaput.

Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

Bro can you stop spamming maybe??

Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
2 months ago

Interesting pick of Efimova for silver.
I think many people already wrote her off which makes sense, as she only finished 2nd at trials and didn’t even medal in this event at Euros.

2 months ago

Pinnacle Odds To Win Gold

King -249 (71%)
Jacoby +223 (31%)
Efimova +651 (13%)
Hansson +758 (11.7%)
Schoemaker +864 (10.4%)

Lay the chalk with King here I guess. Wonder what they will put Pilato’s odds at when they add more women to the list?

Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

I don’t think I see anyone else going under 1:04.5. Jacoby is overpriced right now. I’d love to see yulia win just to watch everyone spaz out

Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

I see them at 15 to 1, same odds as Carraro. I have King at 1.5 to 1 odds in three combined bets. She isn’t my favourite, but she gets the job done .

Reply to  Lopez
2 months ago

What site is this?

Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago


Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

1:04.5 for the over / under

2 months ago

Jacoby and Pilato go 1-2 with King getting the bronze.

The press conference is just the two of them laughing as they play that clip of King saying she’s got no young guns coming in her events. They stream it all on TikTok which King “like won’t get because she was born in 1997 or something totally ancient”.

Reply to  Togger
2 months ago

This is how I see it, both young uns to come thru, Jacoby & Pilato to fight for gold.

Reply to  Togger
2 months ago

If this happens King would drag them down to the bottom of the pool simultaneously and choke them out with a sleeper hold and then casually swim to the surface and get out the pool smiling as if she won the race and no one saw what she just did…..She’d look straight into the camera and tell everyone she is the best because she trains harder then everyone else.

2 months ago

Anyone know when psych sheets/entries lists will be posted?

2 months ago
  1. King 1.04.3
  2. Jacoby 1.05.0
  3. Schoenmaker 1.05.2
  4. Pilato 1.05 mid
  5. Efimova 1.05 high
  6. Carraro 1.05 high
  7. Hansson 1.05 high
  8. Renshaw 1.06 low
Reply to  Eras
2 months ago

Gold – King, 1:04.51
Silver – Jacoby, 1:04.99
Bronze – Hansson, 1:05.69
Fourth – Schoenmaker, 1:05.74

2 months ago

Young Jefimova could be a dark hourse for final also