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27 Jul, 2021 11:02

End of the lane? Russian breaststroke star Efimova ponders retirement after ‘worst performance’ at Tokyo Olympics

End of the lane? Russian breaststroke star Efimova ponders retirement after ‘worst performance’ at Tokyo Olympics

Russia’s Yulia Efimova is considering hanging up her swimming cap after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the 100m breaststroke final at the Tokyo Olympics, with countrywoman Evgenia Chikunova coming home fourth.

A double silver medalist in Rio five years ago, Efimova was unable to add to her medal haul as 17-year-old American Lydia Jacoby claimed a shock gold ahead of South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker and US star Lilly King. 

Russia’s Chikunova, 16, finished 0.36 seconds behind King while Efimova was a further 0.12 seconds behind her countrywoman.


The Tokyo Games are the fourth for Efimova, 29, who made her Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing.

She picked up her first medal with a bronze in the 200m breaststroke in London four years later, before a pair of silvers – in the 100m and 200m – in Brazil.

In addition, the Grozny-born star has amassed 17 medals at World Championships, including six golds, but has suggested that Tokyo might be her last Games.


“It’s the first competition where I’ve competed so badly. I understand there’s Covid, the morning [starts for the finals]. Maybe too many nerves, too much depression,” Efimova told Russian TV after her disappointment at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Tuesday.

“No one around believed in me getting a medal, apart from those close to me and my followers [on social media],” added the star, who is a popular Instagram presence.

“I don’t know, I’ll analyze with my dad what went wrong and if it’s worth continuing.”

Efimova, who is the daughter of renowned Russian swimming coach Andrey Efimov, said she was already facing pressure to commit to the Paris Olympics in 2024 – but was uncertain about her career.

“Everyone is persuading me to go to Paris in three years’ time. Everyone except my dad. After every Olympics the same question appears for me, ever since Beijing in 2008,” said the swimmer, who typically trains in the US.   

“We'll figure it out. A lot of work was done. First with David Salo in America, then some nuances corrected with my dad.”

Unlike in her past three Olympics, Efimova will not be competing in the 200m breaststroke this time round in Tokyo.

“Usually, if it's not done well, there’s time to think and fix the mistakes,” said the Russian.

“The 200 meters I swim more confidently when I'm ready. But here, judging by today's result, I would hardly have shown some brilliant [result].”

After missing out on a medal, fellow Russian Chikunova was equally disappointed.

“I feel bitterness because it was just a little bit short of the medal,” said the teenager.

“I did everything I could, improved my personal best, but so far this is not enough for the podium.

“I didn’t set the task to beat Yulia. I wanted to swim at the maximum and be pleased with myself.

“I fulfilled the first part of the plan, but about the second ... I can’t say that I am satisfied. Fourth place is the most upsetting.”

At just 16 years of age, Chikunova will have more opportunities on the big stage – but for countrywoman Efimova, this could be the end of the lane.

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