Ruta Meilutyte: 15-Year-Old Swimming Phenom Sets World Record In Barcelona

Nathan Francis - Author
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Jul. 29 2013, Updated 6:22 p.m. ET

Ruta Meilutyte is no fluke.

The 16-year-old swimmer from Lithuania became the surprise star of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and nearly exactly a year later has followed up her gold medal by smashing a world record in the 100m backstroke.

Meilutyte was competing at the World Championships in Barcelona, where she qualified with a time of 1:04.52, the second-fastest time in history and a new Olympic record.

But Ruta Meilutyte was just getting started. In the semi-final she finished with a time of 1:04.32, a full 0.15 faster than the previous world record set by Jessica Hardy in 2009.

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Ruta Meilutyte burst on to the scene at the 2012 Olympics, where she earned a surprise victory in the 100m breaststroke final. The moment was so shocking even for Meilutyte that she stood with her hands over her mouth as she looked at the final scoreboard.

“I can’t believe it,” said the 15-year-old shortly after her Olympic victory. “It’s all too much for me. I just can’t believe it.”

The win was even more impressive given the circumstances Meilutyte had to overcome. On top of the nerves of competing on the world’s biggest stage, she also had to deal with a delay after a starting gun malfunction.

In an Olympics where most swimming fans were expecting Missy Franklin to become the breakout star, the American teenager found herself sharing the spotlight with Ruta Meilutyte.

For Ruta and her coach, the record-breaking win in Barcelona revived memories of the Olympic victory.

“It feels a bit surreal, but now I remember the feeling of the Olympic gold medal because it’s kind of the same,” said coach Jon Rudd. “The plan was to go for the world record tonight because we don’t want to have to worry about times tomorrow — just the medal.

“[Russian rival] Yuliya Efimova will push her so she’ll her need to be on her toes tomorrow, but I think there’s more to come.”

Ruta Meilutyte will try to add a gold medal to her world record time when she competes in the 100m breaststroke final on Tuesday.

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