Mare Nostrum, Monte Carlo: Ruta Meilutyte Takes Down European Record

By David Rieder

MONTE CARLO, Monaco, June 8. THE Mare Nostrum series opened in Monaco with several finals along with the second and third rounds of the Monaco 50s unique to this meet. Three Olympic gold medalists picked up wins on day one. Ruta Meilutyte highlighted the first day of action with a new European record in the women's 100 breast

Meilutyte put up a 1:05.20, clipping her previous record of 1:05.21 set at the Olympics last summer in the semi-finals. Meilutyte won gold in the final the following day. Meilutyte won the race by more than two and a half seconds, as Japan's Kanako Wantanabe came in second at 1:07.92, and Russia's Valentina Artemyeva grabbed third in 1:08.56.

France's Camille Muffat put up a strong performance in the women's 200 free with a 1:56.00. That fell short of both her world-leading time, a 1:55.48 from April, and her meet record, 1:55.21, from last year. However, no one else has beaten that time yet in 2013. Hungary's Katinka Hosszu picked up second place at 1:57.73, and France's Charlotte Bonnet touched third in 1:58.57.

Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen Gray and Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom tied for first in the women's 100 fly. Ottesen Gray held a strong lead at the halfway mark, but Sjostrom tracked her down, and both touched in 57.63. That broke Inge de Brujin's meet record of 57.96 from 2000, and both moved up to second in the world, behind Alicia Coutts' 57.18. Great Britain's Jemma Lowe finished third in 58.91.

South Africa's Chad Le Clos took the win in his signature event, the men's 200 fly. The Olympic gold medalist from 2012 pulled away from Hungary's Bence Biczo on the last 50 and clocked a 1:56.34, which ranked as the eighth-best time in the world this year. Biczo hung on for second in 1:57.23, and Japan's Yuki Kobori finished third in 1:57.68.

Hosszu cruised to an easy victory in the women's 400 IM. The 2009 world champion in the event, Hosszu checked in at 4:37.74, moving ahead of countrywoman Evelyn Verraszto (4:38.50) for seventh in the world so far in 2013. Russia's Victoria Andreeva touched second in 4:44.91, and Hungary's Boglarka Kapas ended up third in 4:44.69. Ukraine's Daryna Zevina took the women's 200 back in 2:09.05, the sixth-best time in the world this year. Russia's Daria Ustinova touched second in 2:10.63, and Verraszto grabbed third in 2:11.16.

Japan's Daiya Seto crushed the meet record in the men's 200 IM. His winning time of 1:58.14 beat Laszlo Cseh's 1:59.31 set back in 2006, while Cseh also surpassed his previous mark with a 1:58.73. France's Jeremy Stravius took third in 2:01.44. A pair of Russians finished first and second in the men's 100 free. Andrey Grechin took the win in 49.09, ahead of his countryman Evgeny Lagunov, who finished in 49.37. Italy's Luca Dotto picked up the final podium spot with a 49.72.

A pair of men who made the Olympic semi-finals finished first and second in the men's 200 breast. Russia's Vlacheslav Sinkevich won in 2:10.67, and Marco Koch finished second in 2:11.42. Andrew Willis, an Olympic finalist from Great Britain, touched out Spain's Melquiades Alvarez for third, 2:13.34 to 2:13.38.

Russia's Vitaly Borisov won a tight men's 100 back final over Hungary's Peter Bernek with a time of 55.52. Bernek checked in at 55.59, and France's Benjamin Stasiulis took third in 55.81. South Africa's Myles Brown won the men's 400 free in 3:50.90, while France's Damien Joly grabbed second with a 3:51.81. Japan's Yohsuke Miyamoto rounded out the top three with a 3:52.74.

In quarterfinals of the meet's signature Monaco 50s, Roland Schoeman led the way in the men's 50 fly with a 23.57 after posting a 23.49 in an earlier round. Ottesen Gray topped qualifying in the women's 50 fly with a 26.10. Stravius finished first in the men's 50 back with a 25.89, while Japan's Aya Terakawa blasted the women's 50 back, clocking 27.92, good for sixth in the world.

Slovenia's Damir Dugonjic put up a 27.90 to take the lead in the men's 50 breast headed into Sunday's semi-final round. Meilutyte put herself in position to challenge for a second victory tomorrow with a 30.63 to lead all qualifiers in the women's 50 breast. That time falls just short of her second-ranked 30.57. Grechin touched first in the men's 50 free in 22.34, while Sjostrom finished first in the women's 50 free with a 24.77. The two most recent Olympic champions will join Sjostrom in the semi-final, as the Netherlands' Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Germany's Britta Steffen finished second and third, respectively.