I saw this story, in the Russian press, about Russia’s swimming athlete and silver-medalist Yulia Efimova (100-meter breaststroke) who has decided to return to the U.S. to live, and to continue her training.
Recall how the Rio Olympics were marred by poor sportsmanships, one of the more egregious stories being the public attacks on Efimova. American swimmer and gold medalist Lilly King came in for much-deserved criticism for her un-Olympic behavior.
If real life were a Reality Show, and the rivalry between these two swimming ladies were portrayed as pure catfight, then the Referee calls would go something like this:
- Round 1: Efimova wins the Semi-final, raises her index finger in the traditional boasting-athlete sign indicating “I am #1!” Pride goeth before a fall.
- King takes offense and vows revenge. She misunderstands the “I am #1” signal as something else, namely finger-wagging. As if Efimova is dressing her down for something. King strides off the deck, refuses to congratulate the Russian girl, and proceeds to mouth off to the press, accusing Efimova of doping, while praising herself as the model of clean living.
- A day later King wins the race, defeating Efimova (who takes the silver, which is not so shabby). King gloats and glories in her win, continuing to play geo-politics by insinuating that all the Russians are dopers and she is the only clean one on the deck. She gets even with Efimova by wagging her finger, as if to chide the rival girl for her cheatin’ ways.
- American press goads on the catfight. Sports pundits and the American public fully match up to every stereotype and requirement of the strutting gloating bullies which the world has come to know and love.
- Lilly plays into every stereotype herself, even tossing in some raw meat about how she is swimming “for her country”. One recalls how every Olympic bully, not even excluding Tonya Harding herself — she who plotted to break the bones and cripple the legs of her figure-skating rival, falls back on raw patriotism when under attack for having a rotten and criminal character.
- The Russian press in its turn picks up the story and vilifies King, portraying her (deservedly) as the typical “ugly American”. Some pundits take the “ugly” too literally and make grandiose (and unchivalrous) insinuations about King’s physical appearance, like, maybe she is too pudgy, and maybe she resents the sleeker and more attractive Efimova, that sort of thing. Almost as if forgetting that this is not the swimsuit portion of a beauty pageant, but rather, a sport in which strength, power and endurance trump physical beauty. With the Cold War being fought in the swimming pool, sheer nastiness ensues.
- When some of the dust had settled, King emitted an apology to Efimova. One of her handlers probably told her to do this. So she can get her pudgy face plastered on a box of Wheaties (?)
And now that the Rio games are over for the lovely Efimova, who walked away with 3 medals (again, not too shabby for someone who almost wasn’t allowed to compete), we see that reality is never quite so black and white as pseudo-patriots of both camps believe.
Life Is Easier In America
And thus, Yulia, proving once again that elite athletes have, well, more choices in life than the average person, announced in an interview on the American CNN channel, that she has decided to return to the U.S. Where she has been living and training. Yes, the very God Bless these United States of America which vilified her and held her up as a Russian catspaw. Conveniently forgetting those American mouth-breathing mobs who greeted her with boos and catcalls every time she strode up onto the deck of the pool, “In America everybody smiles,” she told CNN.
Efimova has her heart set on the Tokyo Olympics, her main goal in life right now is to continue training and win the gold in Tokyo.
In her CNN interview, Efimova went on to criticize her own fellow countrypeople, sounding almost like a kreakl in her desperation to suck up or make news friends: “Russians live a very harsh life from the earliest years. From day to day. Which is why they are so aggressive. America changes people. America has changed me.”
Yulia used to train with American coach David Salo in the Athletics Department at the University of Southern California. However, she was forced to leave Salo’s team due to a school policy that he was not allowed to take in foreign athletes who had been previously banned for doping.
Yulia is not sure where she is going to train now, after Rio. She has few fans among other American swimmers: Michael Phelps dissed her. Salo can’t take her back. Will the Russians disown her for her anti-Russian remarks? (Probable answer: No. They would take her back.)
In short, who is going to coach her? All I can say is this: Yulia better find herself a good coach if she intends to win the gold in Tokyo.