World Championships, Day 8: Ruta Meilutyte Lowers 50 Breast World Record for Title

Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 50m Breaststroke Women Final with a New World Record during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 30th, 2023.
Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships, Night 8: Ruta Meilutyte Lowers 50 Breast World Record for Title

Ruta Meilutyte first won a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. A decade later, she’s a double gold medalist with lots more ahead of her.

The Lithuanian lowered the world record she tied a night earlier in the women’s 50-meter breaststroke, going 29.16 to win a world title at the World Aquatics Championships.

Lilly King, after a frustrating week for her, surged to the silver medal in 29.94 seconds. Benedetta Pilato got a medal for the second straight Worlds in bronze in 30.04, denying last year’s bronze medalist Lara van Niekerk of South Africa a repeat. She landed fourth in 30.09.

“I was kind of waiting for this to happen seven days ago,” King said, half-joking, after adding gold in the women’s medley relay. “But I think I kept a positive attitude and really, sometimes, you’ve got to get back in and put a little work in in between those races, and I think I was able to do it. I had a good night tonight.”

The semifinals featured Meilutyte tying her world record of 29.30. It made you think a world record might be needed to win. (It also took a tenth off the meet record set in 2017 by King in Budapest.)

Meilutyte first set this record at the 2013 Worlds, in a head-to-head battle with Yuliya Yefimova. Meilutyte got the record to 29.48 at that event, but she didn’t win the gold, finishing second to the Russian.

A decade later, after a dalliance with retirement, she’s got the record, the gold and the 100 gold to boot, putting her on a collision course for Paris next year.

Given the form that Meilutyte was in, King had an idea that the field might be vying for silver, and she was determined to get her name at the top of that list.

“She’d been swimming so fast all week, so it was kind of just try to see if I can get out with her from the start and see if I can get in after that,” King said. “There’s no 50 next year so I don’t have to worry about it too much, but it was a pretty good race.”

All three medalists from Budapest were back, though the orderly podium of 29.79-29.80-29.90 wasn’t. Pilato finished second in Hungary. Van Niekerk was third. She was the lucky one in Fukuoka, needing a scratch from her countrywoman Tatjana Schoenmaker to elevate her from 16th after prelims to the final. She brought the outside smoke in the semifinals at 29.91 to make sure she’d need no such assistance again.

Meilutyte controlled the final from the jump, a bodylength clear. King finished excellently to get her medal, after fourth-place finishes in the 100 and 200. Anita Bottazzo of Italy finished fifth in 30.11, ahead of Tang Quianting of China in sixth.


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