European Championships: Ruta Meilutyte Fends Off Benedetta Pilato For 50 Breaststroke Title

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European Championships: Ruta Meilutyte Fends Off Benedetta Pilato For 50 Breaststroke Title

This summer, Ruta Meilutyte and Benedetta Pilato have seen a lot of one another. They first battled at the World Championships in Budapest, where each woman claimed a global title. Most recently, they’ve dueled at the European Championships in Rome, with their latest clash producing an entertaining show.

On the final night of action at the Euro Champs, it was Meilutyte who came out on top. Racing at the Foro Italico, Meilutyte registered a time of 27.59 to edge Pilato, who touched the wall in 29.71. Meilutyte looked in control for the majority of the race, but a long finish put the outcome in doubt until the scoreboard flashed the results. At that point, Meilutyte had a chance to exhale, and savor another international gold. The bronze medal went to Great Britain’s Imogen Clark in 30.31.

Earlier in the meet, Pilato got the best of Meiltutyte in the 100 breaststroke, as the Italian grabbed the gold medal while the Lithuanian made her way onto the podium with a bronze-medal finish. It has been quite the summer for Meilutyte, who is in the middle of a resurgence after fading away from the sport in late 2018. Although Meilutyte had no intentions of racing when she pulled her disappearing act, three whereabouts violations connected to out-of-competition doping tests led to a two-year ban that lasted into the first half of 2021.

Since the end of her suspension, and with a rejuvenated passion for the pool, the 25-year-old has emerged as a factor on the international scene. Ten years after a 15-year-old Meilutyte won Olympic gold in the 100 breaststroke in London, she added a bronze medal in that event and a gold in the 50 breaststroke at the World Champs. Now, she has two more medals from the European Champs, and is on a momentum surge less than two years away from the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I’m grateful to be here, for being able to do it this way,” Meilutyte said. “It is not so much about the time, but more about who I want to be as a person and as an athlete. To do what is right for me. I’m grateful for everything that happened – and I can’t tell any more than this.”

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