Schoolgirl star Ruta Meilutyte (15) overwhelmed by Olympic gold
Published 31/07/2012 | 07:40
RUTA Meilutyte was last night overwhelmed after becoming Olympic champion at the age of 15 when she won the 100 metres breaststroke in London.
It was Lithuania's first Olympic swimming medal in their history as the teenager showed not just skill but also maturity and guts throughout.
Meilutyte made her intentions clear throughout the rounds, setting a new European record in the heats, and was fastest into the final at the Aquatics Centre.
A malfunction of the starter's gun delayed the race for a few minutes but any thoughts that may add to any nerves the youngster could be suffering from were soon dispelled.
Meilutyte led from start to finish and held off a fast-finishing Rebecca Soni, the Beijing silver medallist, to win in one minute 05.55 seconds.
The youngster's appearance on the podium was probably the most popular in London - barring that of Rebecca Adlington - and she was tearful throughout, although she had still to register the enormity of her achievement.
She said: "I can't believe it. It's too much for me.
"I can't really say anything. It was hard and difficult.
"At the moment I can't speak too much but it means a lot to me and I am so proud."
Meilutyte has a strong British connection, although there could not be a stronger contrast with the fate of the home competitors in this event as neither made it through the heats.
Meilutyte was born in Lithuania but came to this country in 2010 to study at Plymouth College, where diving star Tom Daley also attends.
The teenager trains under Jon Rudd at Plymouth Leander, the same coaching and studying arrangement enjoyed by former breaststroke prospect Achieng Ajulu-Bushell, who has now retired.
Rudd told BBC Sport: "We didn't realistically know what she would do.
"The Olympics are a funny place. We concentrated on her [training] process and she is amazing at that.
"She doesn't want me to talk about anyone else. She says 'just tell me what I have to do'."
Rudd added that she was more of a freestyle specialist when she arrived in the United Kingdom, saying: "Her breaststroke was pretty tidy and we tidied it up even more.
"A big swim around the 1:05-1:06 mark was brewing for a while, it was just about putting the elements together on the day.
"She is a talented and vigilant worker and when you've got talent and work ethic you've got a great kid."