Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte became the first 15-year-old Olympic swimming champion for 40 years as she powered to the 100m breaststroke gold medal here on Monday.
Meilutyte held off fast-finishing American world champion Rebecca Soni to become the youngest winner of an Olympic swimming gold since Australia great Shane Gould enjoyed a triple triumph at the 1972 Munich Games.
The blonde schoolgirl was emotional about her achievement and shed tears on the podium after her country’s national anthem was played to sustained applause from the crowd at the Aquatics Centre.
Meilutyte also became the first swimmer to win a gold medal for Lithuania, once part of the former Soviet Union.
“I put all my strength into that race. I still can’t believe it. I’m shocked, but in a good way,” she said.
“I started crying on the podium, that’s when it started to sink in. I can’t believe it. It’s too much for me. It was hard and difficult. But it means a lot to me and I’m so proud.”
She surged clear off the starting blocks and led all the way to beat Soni in one minute 05.47 seconds, prevailing by just eight-hundredths of a second. Japan’s Satomi Suzuki was third.
Ruta is an 'adopted Brit'
Success-starved Britain rushed to claim a slice of Lithuanian teenager Ruta Meilutyte’s gold medal glory yesterday after the swimmer’s remarkable win in the 100m breaststroke.
Meilutyte, who became the youngest winner of the Olympic event at 15 years and 133 days, goes to school in England and trains at the same Plymouth facility as British poster-boy diver Tom Daley. While Meilutyte is Lithuania’s first Olympic swimming champion you could be forgiven for thinking the blonde school kid is British given the reaction to Monday’s 100m breastroke win over US world champion Rebecca Soni. Jon Rudd, her coach at Plymouth Leander swimming club, claimed Meilutyte should be regarded as “our adopted Brit.”