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BARCELONA, Spain, July 29. THE 2013 FINA World Championships so far have been some breakthrough swimmers proving that stunning performances at the 2012 London Olympics were not a fluke. First, Katie Ledecky stepped up with a textile best in the 400-meter freestyle. This morning, Lithuania’s Ruta Meiltutyte did the same with an epic swim in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims.
Meilutyte clocked the second-fastest time ever in the event with a sizzling time of 1:04.52 (30.23, 34.29). The time eclipsed Rebecca Soni for the top time in textile, as Soni clocked a 1:04.91 in semifinals of the 2011 Shanghai Championships. Meanwhile, Meilutyte’s time beat Soni’s meet record of 1:04.84 from the 2009 World Championships in Rome, and just missed Jessica Hardy’s world record of 1:04.45. Additionally, her time beat Meilutyte’s previous European record of 1:05.21 from the Mare Nostrum circuit earlier this summer.
That’s an astonishing swim from Meilutyte with more to come heading into semis and finals. She’s looking to become the youngest swimmer ever at 15 years old to back up an Olympic title in the event with a world title the next year.
World-record holder Hardy is going to have her work cut out for her. She popped a 1:05.18 to finish second after clocking a 30.46 going out before coming home in 34.72. That’s the 11th-fastest time in history, and lost some of its luster in comparison to Meilutyte’s thrown gauntlet this morning.
Russia’s Yuliya Efimova, who had been trading shots with Meilutyte earlier this summer in the world rankings, qualified third in 1:05.24, the 14th fastest in the world.
What is the most surprising is how quick the swimming community moves on when someone takes a break. Soni took a year off from the sport following a strong performance at the 2012 London Olympics, and now she’s looking to be the person doing the chasing when she gets back in the water.
Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen (1:06.30), Ukraine’s Viktoriya Solnceva (1:06.79), USA’s Breeja Larson (1:06.83), Spain’s Marina Garcia Urzainqui (1:07.18) and Sweden’s Jennie Johansson (1:07.21) will be gunning after spots in the finale as the top eight qualifiers.
Australia’s Sally Foster (1:07.59), Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson (1:07.76), Japan’s Satomi Suzuki (1:07.79), Ireland’s Fiona Doyle (1:07.88), Czech’s Petra Chocova (1:08.18), Netherlands’ Moniek Nijhuis (1:08.29), Australia’s Samantha Marshall (1:08.33) and Belgium’s Kim Janssens (1:08.36) will also be fighting for spots in the finale after making the semifinal draw.