Tokyo Vision: Who Will Join Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova in Chase for 200 Breast Title?

Lilly King Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Tokyo Vision: Lilly King, Yulia Efimova Get Plenty of Company in 200 Breaststroke Final

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not shaken the world, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be unfolding right now, titles and podium finishes earned by the finest athletes from around the world. Instead, we are in a competition lull and hopeful that the Games will be held next summer, with COVID-19 neutralized.

As we reach the nine days over which the swimming competition of a delayed Olympiad would have taken place, Swimming World is taking a glimpse at what might have unfolded this summer, had the Olympics not been postponed. Following the official schedule, we offer our virtual fields of eight finalists for each event and take a brief look at how the racing might have panned out until a few strokes away from decision and a result that will not be known until July/August 2021.

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Event: Women’s 200 Breaststroke

World Record: Rikke Moller Pedersen (2013) – 2:19.11

Historical Note #1: Rebecca Soni’s win at the 2012 Olympic Games made her the first repeat Olympic champion in an event that dates back to 1924, one of the oldest events on the women’s side of the docket.

Historical Note #2: Before Soni and countrywoman Amanda Beard, who won gold in 2004, this event was almost the sole province of non-American swimmers. Women from 11 countries have won the event, led by three from Japan (including 2016 champ Rie Kaneto) and three from the USSR. The event was also largely exempt from the East German domination of the 1970s and 80s, with only Silke Horner in 1988 capturing gold. Before Beard, Sharon Wichman (1968) was the only other American to win the event.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Reona Aoki – Japan
  • Eugenia Chikunova – Russia
  • Yuliya Efimova – Russia
  • Lilly King – United States
  • Annie Lazor – United States
  • Sydney Pickrem – Canada
  • Molly Renshaw – Great Britain
  • Tatjana Shoenmaker – South Africa

The Race

The last Olympic final and the 2019 World Championships both proceeded without Americans in the final, the latter due to a Lilly King disqualification. The Americans swam like they’re still mad about it. King came through the prelims with the second-fastest time, behind only Sydney Pickrem. Annie Lazor qualified fourth, with prime placement in the center of the pool.

King and Yuliya Efimova have already tussled in the 100 breast, but the longer distance is more Efimova’s territory. As much as Efimova has been the face of the event in her country for years, her 16-year-old countrywoman Eugenia Chikunova has shown potential to take the reins. More, Efimova continues to hear jeers from the crowd relating to her doping violation of the past.

In the final, Pickrem went out first over the opening 50 meters, with King and Efimova in touch. Tatjana Shoenmaker was also hovering. By the halfway point, Efimova had taken control, a good sign for the Russian, given her closing ability.

But where Efimova never looked back at the World Championships in 2019 on the way to her third world title, this time she looked more vulnerable, with swimmers queuing up to take a go at her lead. Pickrem found a second wind in the run to the finish. Lazor looked long and strong and in the medal hunt. Shoenmaker gave it a dig, and King wouldn’t let up. Efimova turned for home in the lead. But could the field reel her in?