Daily Olympian: NBC Refights the Cold War

Lilly King and Yulia Efimova Olympic Games Rio H 2016
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

America's "Fleek Five" compete for the women's gymnastics gold medal tonight, and a recap of Monday night's U.S. vs. Russia swimming final that had Lilly King winning gold.

Tuesday night brings the women's gymnastics team final, one of the highlights of the Olympic Games, and The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the "Cold War Duel in the Pool" between Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in Monday night's 100-meter breaststroke final.

What to Watch

Primetime: women's gymnastics
The women’s gymnastics team final is the big event of the day. Stream it live at 3 p.m. ET or watch the tape- delay package in primetime starting at 7 p.m. on NBC. If anything is going to cure NBC’s ratings doldrums, it will be the American team of Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian (what some have dubbed the “Fleek Five”), possibly the best American team ever. In the preliminaries they finished first, an astounding 9.97 points ahead of second-place China.

Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky go for more gold
Also in primetime is more swimming, including finals of the women's 200-meter freestyle (9:19 p.m. ET), featuring Katie Ledecky; the men's 200-meter butterfly, (9:28 p.m.), featuring Michael Phelps in pursuit of his 20th gold medal and 24th overall; the women’s 200- meter individual medley (10:29 p.m.), featuring controversial Hungarian Katinka Hosszu; and the men’s 4 x 200-meter freestyle (10:38 p.m.), featuring Ryan Lochte

Equestrian (Johnny Weir reminds us all the French team wears Hermes), a third 12-hour day of tennis on Bravo and U.S. women’s soccer vs. Colombia on NBCSN at 6 p.m.

What happened yesterday

Welcome to the '80s
NBC loves a good soap opera in its Olympics coverage and there’s no better soap opera than the Cold War, which came roaring back in women’s swimming. As the Associated Press noted, "For a few minutes, it felt like 1980 again. An American versus a Russian, this time squaring off in a swimming pool instead of an ice skating rink.”

The key figures were American Lilly King (she of the finger-wagging denunciations) and Russian Yulia Efimova, who served a 16-month doping suspension and was only competing in these Olympics because another positive test was overturned on appeal. The two threw shade in the preliminaries and the final was like Rocky vs. Ivan Drago all over again.

The race was great. King won the 100-meter Butterfly Gold in an Olympic record 1:04.93, beating Efimova by 0.57 of a second.

The postgame was something else. Just out of the pool, Efimova cried and King basked. “I’m not this sweet little girl,” King said. “That’s not who I am.”

Umm, this is awkward
And she proved it at an even more awkward press conference with King and Efimova separated by bronze medalist Katie Meili (USA). While Efimova admitted she made mistakes, King barely acknowledged her. And then boom! King lowered the hammer on some of her own teammates when she was asked if she was OK with Americans like Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin, who were caught doping and served out their suspensions, being on the team. “Do I think people who have been caught for doping offenses should be on the team?” King said. “No, they shouldn’t. It is just something that needs to be set in stone that this is what we are going to do." She added, "Let's settle this and be done with it. There should not be any bouncing back and forwards."

The Associated Press criticized the way NBC handled the immediate postrace interview. “It was a feel-good win for television viewers. And yet.... Was King improperly taking the role of judge and jury for herself? Was she reflecting the Olympic ideals of competition? Was she acting like an ugly American? Those are some uncomfortable questions that could have been brought up, but weren't. And if NBC made an effort to get Efimova's side of the story after her silver medal-winning race, it wasn't apparent to viewers.” 

Twitter Went Nuts

Leslie Jones:


Samuel L. Jackson:


And in King's hometown: