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LONDON, England, July 29. LEISEL Jones' Olympic record in the women's 100-meter breaststroke is definitely in jeopardy with a pair of 1:05s on the board during prelims of the event at the 2012 London Olympics.
15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania smashed the field in heat four of six with a sterling 1:05.56. That effort shot her to eighth in the all time rankings, and blasted the Olympic textile best of 1:06.64 posted by China's Luo Xuejuan at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Leisel Jones' overall Olympic record of 1:05.17 is definitely in trouble heading into semis. With that type of potential from the morning, Meilutyte could become Lithuania's first Olympic swimming medalist while swimming under the Lithuanian flag. Three previous Lithuanians have won medals, but were swimming for the Soviet Union.
“I didn't expect it at all, I am in shock,” said an obviously emotional Meilutyte. “I am speechless.”
USA's Rebecca Soni followed Meilutyte two heats later with a 1:05.75, trouncing training partner Yuliya Efimova (1:06.51) in the final heat. Soni is the defending silver medalist, and is looking to earn gold in the event. The US has won the gold medal just twice before with Catherine Carr (1972) and Megan Quann (2000) having won previously. Efimova, meanwhile, would like to join Yelena Rudkovskaya as Russians with wins in the event.
“It was just fine,” Soni said. “I just wanted to shake things up. I'm happy with the time and it felt pretty good. I have been focusing on the competition. I was under a lot of pressure to make the (USA) team and I did that.”
U.S. Trials surprise artist Breeja Larson kept on trucking during a career year with a fourth-seeded time of 1:06.58.
“I just wanted to do my best time like everyone else,” Larson said. “All I can do is my best and I hope that will be enough to get where I want to go. It was an incredible experience. The biggest realization is that all these brilliant swimmers are just ordinary people. It's anyone's game. I worry just about my lane, all the jitters are out of my system and I am more confident now.”
Defending gold medalist Jones of Australia shook off harsh pre-Olympic jeers regarding her fitness with a fifth-place 1:06.98. Japan's Satomi Suzuki (1:07.08), Germany's Sarah Poewe (1:07.12) and Sweden's Jennie Johansson (1:07.14) captured the other top eight spots.
“Pretty happy, probably one of my best heats,” Jones said. “I have made myself proud by being here. My job here is helping the young ones.”
Denmark's Rikke Pedersen (1:07.23), Jamaica's Alia Atkinson (1:07.39), Australia's Leiston Pickett (1:07.41), South Africa's Suzaan van Biljon (1:07.54), China's Zhao Jin (1:07.68), Japan's Mina Matsushima (1:07.69), Canada's Jillian Tyler (1:07.81) and Canada's Tera Van Beilen (1:07.85) also advanced to the semifinals.
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