LITHUANIAN teenager Ruta Meilutyte commanded the spotlight at the World Championships in Barcelona last night as she added the world 100 metres breaststroke record to the Olympic title she won in London last year.
Meilutyte created an enormous shock at the Aquatics Centre last summer with her victory followed by tears on the podium aged just 15.
The 16-year-old had served notice with a heat swim that was the second fastest time in history and saw Meilutyte knock 0.68secs off her own European record. She then returned to the Palau Sant Jordi last night to clock one minute 04.35 seconds in the semi-final, 0.15 secs faster than the previous best time set by Jessica Hardy in 2009.
Meilutyte, who is based in Plymouth under Jon Rudd, still has tonight’s final to come but she freely admitted the world record was more important than gold.
She said: “Well, it’s one of the steps, one of the dreams. Obviously, a gold medal would be a cherry on top of the ice cream. I’ll have a relaxing day tomorrow and save all my energy for the final.
“My biggest aim is accomplished now and I’ll give it my best shot in the final.”
Meilutyte would not be drawn as to whether she could go under the 1:04 mark, saying: “I don’t know, honestly. It’s a hard question.”
While Meilutyte’s world record commanded attention, four finals were decided.
Olympic silver medallist Christian Sprenger overhauled 2012 champion Cameron van der Burgh in the final metres to claim the 100m breaststroke title in 58.79secs with Felipe Lima in third. Sprenger of Australia said: “It was amazing, I feel really lucky because I needed to compete against Cameron and at least I won.”
Brazilian Cesar Cielo successfully defended his 50m butterfly title in 23.01 ahead of American Eugene Godsoe and 32-year-old Frederick Bousquet.
Sarah Sjostrom won the 100m butterfly, a year after an Olympics that fell short of expectation. The Swede clocked 56.53 ahead of Australian Alicia Coutts and Olympic champion Dana Vollmer.