World Championships: Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte Wins Gold in the 50m breaststroke 10 Years after Winning Olympic Gold in London

MEILUTYTE Ruta LTU celebrating Gold Medal 50m Breaststroke Women Final Swimming FINA 19th World Championships Budapest 2022 Budapest, Duna Arena 25/06/22 Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte Wins Gold in the 50m breaststroke 10 Years after Winning Olympic Gold in London

Ten years after winning Olympic gold and nine years after her last world championship win, former teenage wonderkind, Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte has tonight won second world title, taking out the 50m breaststroke in Budapest .

The 25-year-old, gold in the 100m in 2013 and a bronze medallist in the 100m breaststroke at this meet. took the title in 29.70 to defeat Italian world record holder Benedetta Pilato (29.80) who had won her first world title in the 100m earlier in the meet with South African Lara van Niekerk (29.90) taking the bronze and her first world championship.

It was van Niekerk who led the qualifiers from the heats into the semi-finals ahead of Pilato with Meilutyte, who had swum the 50m freestyle heats before the breaststroke heats, scraped into the semis in last place in 31.02 – dropping 1.32 to take the gold.

World short course champion, China’s Tang Qianting finished fourth in 30.21; Germany’s  silver medallist in the 100m Anna Elendt (30.22) fifth; 15-year-old Estonian Eneli Jefimova (30.25) sixth; two-time defending champion from the USA Lilly King (30.40) seventh and 25-year-old Brazilian Jhennifer Alves Da Conceicao (30.45) eighth.

Meilutyte had come from the clouds to win the Olympic gold in London  in 2012 when hardly anyone knew her but after London she was a household name, when she returned home from the Olympics, she was given a heroes welcome in her home country of Lithuania.

Coming in to the London Olympics, she was only a 1:07.30 in the 100 breast, hardly a medal favorite. In 2011, she was ranked 23rd in the world with a 1:07.96, hardly a favorite to even reach the Olympic final.

In the heat four of six at the 2012 Olympic Games, she lowered her best time all the way down to a 1:05.56, scoring the top seed out of the heats.

She proved that 1:05 was not a fluke when she swam a new European Record in the semi-finals with a 1:05.21, again getting the top seed in the final. The Olympics were Meilutyte’s first major international meet at the senior level, but suddenly Meilutyte was the favorite to win the gold medal. In a mini-documentary published by Trans World Sport in 2013, Meilutyte and her coach Jon Rudd said they went to London as a way to enjoy it and gain experience to peak at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

They were just hoping she would make the final.

She continued her momentum with two gold medals in the 50 and 100 breast and a silver in the 100 IM at the 2012 World Short Course Championships. In 2013 at the World Championships in Barcelona, she became famous for her quick reaction time when she registered a 0.57 reaction time in the semi-finals of the 50 breaststroke. It was the fastest reaction time of any woman at the meet, and only second to Anthony Clark’s 0.55 in the heats of the 50 free, and tied with Ben Proud’s 0.57 in the 50 free heats.

She announced her retirement from competitive swimming after missing three doping tests and served a 24-month suspension for anti-doping rule violations between April 2018 and March 2019, returning to national competition in 2021.