Brits rush to claim a slice of teen swimming sensation

2012-07-31 14:39

London – Success-starved Britain rushed to claim a slice of Lithuanian teenager Ruta Meilutyte’s gold-medal glory after the swimmer’s remarkable win in the 100m breaststroke.

Meilutyte, who became the youngest winner of the Olympic event at 15 years and 133 days, goes to school in England and trains at the same Plymouth facility as British poster-boy diver Tom Daley.

While Meilutyte is Lithuania’s first Olympic swimming champion you could be forgiven for thinking the blonde schoolkid is British given the reaction to yesterday’s 100m breastroke win over American world champion Rebecca Soni.

Jon Rudd, her coach at Plymouth Leander swimming club, claimed Meilutyte should be regarded as “our adopted Brit”.

“She goes to a British school, swims for a British club and has a British coach, so she is a great British interest story,” Rudd told The Daily Telegraph.

“We should feel really proud of her: she is a product of our nation’s work. I hope Brits around the country got behind her: she should be our adopted Brit.”

The Daily Mail proclaimed: “Plymouth schoolgirl wins swimming gold ... but it’s for Lithuania,” while The Independent said “the home support were able to claim a victory of sorts in the 100m breaststroke through Meilutyte. She has already been asked about switching allegiance and firmly declined”.

Meilutyte’s mother died after being hit by a car when Ruta was four years old and she came to England in 2010 with her father and established their new home in Plymouth where she joined the local swimming club.

She could barely speak after her victory, looking stunned as she straddled the lane rope trying to take it all in amid the tumult around the pool.

Meilutyte, the only female in the Lithuanian swim team, was barely composed as she shed tears on the podium after her country’s national anthem was played to sustained applause from the heart-felt crowd at the Aquatics Centre.

“I put all my strength into that race. I still can’t believe it. I’m shocked, but in a good way,” she said.

“I started crying on the podium, that’s when it started to sink in.

“I can’t believe it. It’s too much for me. It was hard and difficult. But it means a lot to me and I’m so proud.”

Meilutyte’s improvement has been stunning. She arrived at the Games with a best time of 1:07.20 and whittled it down by 1.73secs to become Olympic champion.

Now she owns the fastest time of the year (1:05.21) and her future is boundless.

“It was definitely a surprise, but after her prelim swim, I knew she would be a great competitor,” runner-up Soni said.

“It is amazing to be able to do that at 15. She swam three races impressive, so it wasn’t out of nowhere. It was an honour to have swum with her as she will do great in the future.” 

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