(Daily Mail)- Just weeks ago 15-year-old, Ruta Meilutyte was sitting with classmates at Plymouth College. Yesterday, she became an Olympic champion.
The Lithuanian swimming prodigy, taught and trained at an English secondary school, stormed to victory in the 100m breaststroke final.
Nobody expected Meilutyte to even reach the final and she was so shocked by her own success, the teenager held her hands over her mouth when she first clapped eyes on the scoreboard.
The 15-year-old not only became the first swimmer from her country to win an Olympic medal she did it in under extraordinary circumstances.
The start, a time when swimmers are already battling their nerves, was delayed by a technical malfunction that saw the starter’s gun go off before he had called “on your marks”.
American Breeja Larson dived into the pool on the gun but was able to race because of the malfunction.
The eight finalists sat down while the problem was fixed and an unfazed Meilutyte still got off the blocks fastest and led at the turn but then had to survive a fierce challenge from American Rebecca Soni, the reigning world champion in the event.
The more experienced Soni drew level in the final few strokes but Meilutyte kept her cool and got her hands on the wall first in one minute, 05.47 seconds.
Soni was second in 1:05.55 while Japan’s Satomi Suzuki finished third in 1:06.46.
Australia’s Leisel Jones, the defending Olympic champion, who won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games when she was 15, finished fifth overall in her fourth and final appearance at the Games.
The only person who won’t be surprised by Meilutyte’s gold medal is Jon Rudd, her coach at the internationally acclaimed Plymouth Leander Swimming Programme.
Speaking before tonight’s final, Rudd, who describes his pupil as ‘super human’, told the Plymouth Herald: “The only limit to what she is capable of achieving is herself. There are girls out there with long-standing experience and they are going to bring that to the final. But what Ruta brings is youth and vibrancy. She is not worried about reputations”.
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