Mare Nostrum, Barcelona: Ruta Meilutyte Rockets to European Record in 50 Breast

By David Rieder

BARCELONA, Spain, June 11. OLYMPIC champion Ruta Meilutyte blasted through the 30-second barrier in the long course 50 breaststroke today at the Barcelona stop of the Mare Nostrum series, setting a European record in the process. Meanwhile, Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom picked up two victories in the city which will host the FINA World Championships next month.

Meilutyte, the reigning 100 breast Olympic champion who represents Lithuania, posted a 29.96 in today's final to erase Yulia Efimova's European record of 30.10 from 2009. The swim is a world textile best in the event, making Meilutyte the first female under 30 seconds in the event in a textile suit. American Jessica Hardy still owns the world record with a 29.80 from 2009. Notably, Hardy had previously owned the textile best with her 30.03 from the 2010 Pan Pacific championships.

Today's swim marks Meilutyte's second European record of the past few days. On Saturday, she broke her own European record in the 100 breast with a 1:05.20 on Saturday in Monaco.

Meilutyte did not swim the women's 50 breast final alone, but she had no competition, winning the race by more than a second. Denmark's Rikke Moeller Pederson finished second in 31.00, and Russia's Valentia Artemyeva grabbed third in 31.58. Pederson, meanwhile, came back later in the session to win the 200 breast in 2:22.93. No one else has been faster this year, as Pederson holds the top time in the world at a blistering 2:20.53. Japan's Kanako Wantanabe finished runner-up in 2:25.20, and Russia's Irina Novikova grabbed third in 2:25.33.

Sweden's Sjostrom earned two victories, in the women's 50 and 200 free events. Sjostrom won the 50 in 24.73, edging the 24.90 of Germany's Britta Steffen. Sjostrom finished just short of her sixth-ranked 24.70 from earlier this year, while Steffen tied Natalie Coughlin and Femke Heemskerk for eight in the world. Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen Gray picked up third in 24.96.

Sjostrom came back later in the women's 200 free, where she used a blazing last lap to overtake Hungary's Katinka Hosszu. Sjostrom split 28.63 on the final 50 to win in 1:57.72, over Hosszu's 1:58.24. Hosszu had swum a meet record-time of 1:57.14 in prelims, breaking Tang Yi's mark of 1:57.64 from 2010 and moving her up to ninth in the world. Meanwhile, Spain's Melanie Costa Schmid finished third in 1:58.33.

Hosszu did, however, earn a victory in the women's 400 IM. The 2009 world champion in the event, Hosszu clocked 4:35.60 for the triumph, bumping her up to fifth in the world, just behind fellow Hungarian Zsuzsannah Jakobos. Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia took second in 4:39.90, and Brazil's Joanna Maranhao picked up third place in 4:45.89. Meanwhile, Ottesen Gray took the win in the women's 100 fly in 57.89. That fell a bit short of her second-ranked 57.63 from Saturday in Monaco. Slovakia's Katarina Listopadovka finished second in 59.47, and Norway's Ingvild Snildal touched third in 59.62.

Two South African Olympic gold medalists from a year ago swam in Barcelona in their respective gold medal events, but only one earned a victory. Cameron van der Burgh took the men's 100 breast title in 1:00.38, which left him just one one-hundredth of a second outside of the world top-ten. Brazil's Felipe Lima grabbed second in 1:00.82, and New Zealand's Glenn Snyders finished third in 1:01.12.

Meanwhile, Chad Le Clos swam a 2:02.14 200 fly in prelims to finish ninth, and he had to settle for a win in the event's B-final in 1:57.02. Hungary's Bence Bizco won the A-final in 1:56.71, just edging Japan's Yuki Kobori. Kobori finished second after a tight battle with Bizco the entire race. Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov came in third at 1:58.53. Le Clos also finished runner up in the men's 50 fly, clocking 23.90, while countryman Roland Schoeman set a meet record of 23.30 to take the win. Russia's Nikita Konovalov took third in 23.98.

Japan's Aya Terakawa put up a meet record in winning the women's 100 back. The top swimmer in the world this year at 59.47, Terakawa touched in 59.47. Canada's Sinead Russell edged Spain's Duane Da Roche Marce for second place, 1:00.56 to 1:00.64. Belmonte pulled away from New Zealand's Lauren Boyle to win the women's 800 free. Belmonte stopped the clock at 8:26.00, while Boyle came in at 8:28.60, and Erika Villaecija Garcia finished third in 8:35.83.

South Africa's Gerhard Zandberg won the men's 50 back in 25.14. The 2007 world champion in the event did not swim at the 2012 Olympics but has a history of strong performances in this non-Olympic event. Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer Faber grabbed second in 25.33, while Israel's Johnatan Kopelev touched third in 25.47. Germany's Yannick Lebherz took a tight men's 200 back in 1:59.02, overtaking New Zealand's Gareth Kean on the final lap. Kean finished second in 1:59.32, and Hungary's Gabor Balog took third in 1:59.77.

Japan's Daiya Seto won the men's 200 IM in 1:59.00, while Germany's Markus Deibler took second in 2:00.81. South Africa's Michael Meyer ended up third in 2:02.26. Spain's Hamser Hernandez Garcia took the men's 100 free title in 49.14, while Russia's Evgeny Lagunov edged Japan's Sinri Shioura for second, 49.40 to 49.47. South Africa's Myles Brown ended the night with a men's 400 free triumph in 3:52.47. Japan's Ayatsugu Hirai finished second in 3:52.70, just touching out Finland's Matias Koski, who swam a 3:52.86.

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