RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Japan’s Rie Kaneto won the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 200 metres breaststroke on Thursday, edging out controversial Russian Yulia Efimova who won her second silver of the Games.
Shi Jinglin of China took the bronze.
Efimova, who was disqualified for 16 months from October 2013 to February 2015 after testing positive for an anabolic steroid, has found herself at the centre of fierce controversy in Rio, after U.S. rival Lilly King directed pointed comments at her over drug cheating and said she was “not a fan”.
King beat Efimova in the 100 breaststroke on Monday, when the Russian was loudly booed by the Rio crowd and broke down in tears after the race.
On Thursday there were some jeers again as she came out for her race wearing headphones.
But she was all smiles as she waved to supporters in the crowd after accepting her medal and receiving an embrace from Kaneto, who wept tears of happiness after the ceremony.
“It was a great race, crazy and super-close because all the girls were strong. I’m so tired,” said Efimova, who won bronze in the same event in 2012.
After biding their time in the first 50 metres, the Japanese and Russian climbed steadily through the field.
Kaneto led at the final turn and pulled away from Efimova to touch first in two minutes, 20.30 seconds, a comfortable winning margin of 1.67 seconds.
Efimova, 24, was suspended again this year for taking meldonium, which was banned from Jan. 1. But she was cleared in July after the World Anti-Doping Agency acknowledged there was a lack of clear scientific evidence over how long meldonium takes to be excreted from the body.
Initially excluded from the Rio Games because of her doping record, she won a last-minute legal challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week to be allowed to compete.
King failed to make it through to Thursday’s final after placing only 12th in the semi-finals.
Her forthright comments earlier in the week gave an even sharper edge to traditional U.S.-Russian rivalry.
Russian swimming chief Vladimir Salnikov told Reuters on Tuesday the atmosphere surrounding his team reminded him of the Cold War.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury