Iuliia Efimova (RUS) competes in the women's 100m breaststroke finals during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Aquatics Centre
Courtesy of: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)

KAZAN, Russia, July 12. THERE are few confidence boosters that can put a swagger in your step like a best time in-season. How about posting the second-fastest time in the world? That is what Russia's Yuliya Efimova did this evening in front of a home crowd in Kazan, at the World University Games.

Not only did Efimova smash the meet record of 1:07.15, her winning time of 1:05.48 puts her a fingernail behind Ruta Meilutyte's top time of 1:05.20 (which also happens to be the European record). If you weren't already impressed by this time, this is only a hundredth slower than Meilutyte's winning time last summer in London.

With two-and-a-half weeks to go before the final of the 100 breaststroke at the World Championships, it is probably safe to say that Efimova is neither shaved nor tapered for World University Games. She obviously is not in the throes of training either, but is still far out from the apex of her taper.

So what does this mean for World Championships? Being that this is the World University Games, it is only fair to draw a comparison to collegiate swimming. For the swimmers competing at both WUGs and Worlds, this meet reminds me of when we used to swim the Big XII Conference and then NCAAs only a few weeks later.

Those of us who already had our NCAA cuts didn't rest for Big XII's, and sometimes still posted really fast times. That was a huge confidence boost headed into NCAA's, and my thought process went something like this: "Well, if I can do that without being tapered, then I will be able to do this once I am rested." That always helped me sleep a little better at night.

Unfortunately, it didn't always work out as perfectly as I hoped.

At Quebec Cup in 2011, I had a great 100-meter backstroke: an un-rested best time. I then went on to swim slower at World Championships in Shanghai. Swimming fast in-season is a confidence boost, but swimming slower when you are rested--and not understanding what went wrong--is one of the most frustrating experiences a swimmer can have.

Sometimes, even when you aren't shaved or tapered, excitement (like that of a Conference meet) can result in over-performance that is hard to repeat. Even though this is not the biggest meet of the year for Efimova, racing for Russia in Russia could be exciting enough to produce this fabulous swim regardless of where she is in her training.

Even if a swimmer really, truly was not rested for their second last meet, sometimes swimming really fast before taper can plant a tiny seed of doubt in this garden of confidence. You can't help but hear that little voice ask, "Maybe I am ready too soon?" Even if you dispose of this thought before it takes root, being too excited about fast swimming can be bad as well. After a great practice only days into our Olympic staging camp, I couldn't get the visions of Olympic podiums out of my head. I was too excited for too long: it was exhausting.

All this being said, I still think Efimova is going to be a force this summer, and after seeing this time, Ruta Meilutyte might not sleep quite as soundly as she did last night. After all, Efimova is an Olympic medalist in the 200 breaststroke, has won medals in all three breaststroke events on the world stage, and is the former world record holder in the 50. She is one of the fastest sprint breaststrokers in the world, and proved last summer that can bring it home in Olympic fashion in the 200 as well. That points to the 100 maybe actually being her best of the three, and we will only have to wait a few weeks to see.

Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.

Follow her on twitter @juliah2o

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