World Championships, Day 8 Finals: Ruta Meilutyte Bounces Back For Third Consecutive 50 Breast Title

Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania competes in the 50m Breaststroke Women Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 18th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Ruta Meilutyte -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Day 8 Finals: Ruta Meilutyte Bounces Back For Third Consecutive 50 Breast Title

Her week in Doha got off to a poor start with a 17th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, but Ruta Meilutyte is back in an expected position atop the gold-medal podium in the 50 breaststroke. The 26-year-old from Lithuania, who set a world record of 29.30 on the way to gold in the event last year, booked lane four with a strong semifinal swim Saturday evening, and in the final, she held off a charge from the woman who did win gold in the 100 breast, China’s Tang Qianting.

Coming down the stretch, Tang had a chance to steal away the gold, but Meilutyte finished on a full stroke while her Chinese rival had a short finish, and that made the difference in deciding gold. Meilutyte touched in 29.40, a tenth away from her own world record, while Tang was 11-hundredths behind in 29.51. Meilutyte earned her third consecutive win in this event after previously winning in 2022 and 2023.

Meilutyte has also won a pair of world titles in the 100 breast, wins in 2013 and 2023 split by a decade and a brief retirement. Meilutyte entered the Olympic year as the favorite for the event at the Paris Games, but she failed to make the 100 breast semifinals at the start of the week in Doha, swimming a full three seconds slower than she did in her title-winning swim last year. However, Meilutyte showed Sunday that her speed and power is on point.

“It is a proud moment for me and I’m really happy,” Meilutyte said. “It’s really exciting and inspiring to be on the stage while representing Lithuania. I was not expecting anything specific but it was easier to get the same time swimming the 50 any (time of) season, as compared to swimming the longer swims. I think coming back with a lot of experience has always helped me.”

“I’m proud of how far I have come and the journey I have been a part of. It’s always a matter of pride to represent my country at the World Championships. Lithuanian fans are the best, very bright country, it’s always a pleasure to be on the podium with such fans in support.”

Italy’s Benedetta Pilato, the former world-record holder in the event and the 2022 world champion in the 100 breast, won a medal in this event for the fourth consecutive World Championships as she touched third in 30.01. Pilato beat the rest of the field, headed by 2022 bronze medalist Lara van Niekerk of South Africa at 30.47, by almost a half-second.

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