x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Lithuanian swimmer's silver lining at the World Junior Championships

Ruta Meilutyte happier to have helped team to second-place finish in 4x100m relay than her 50m championship record, writes Paul Radley.

Canada's Olivia Anderson cuts through the water in the 800-metre freestyle event in Dubai. She finished in 13th place. Lee Hoagland / The National
Canada's Olivia Anderson cuts through the water in the 800-metre freestyle event in Dubai. She finished in 13th place. Lee Hoagland / The National

DUBAI // Given all the medals, world records and international celebrity Ruta Meilutyte has accrued over her annus mirabilis in the pool, it is easy to forget she is still only 16.

The Lithuanian teen made light of her punishing workload to register another gold and a championship record in the 50m breaststroke final at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex on Tuesday night.

She then dived back into the pool shortly afterwards to swim her way into the final of the 100m freestyle, before helping her nation to silver, behind Russia and ahead of the United States, in the mixed 4x100m relay. Just another day in paradise for the UK-based schoolgirl, and there was little doubting which gave her most satisfaction.

"Finishing second was wicked, man I'm so happy," she said.

Team player, record-breaker, Lith legend and still not old enough to drive. Some questioned the thinking behind Meilutyte being at this age-grade championship in Dubai.

Just a month ago, she set a new batch of world records at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, when she had senior competitors to push her to excel.

She concedes she is looking forward to some time off at the conclusion of this championship, but still relished pushing herself on a busy day in the pool.

"Maybe the PB was not quite within reach, but I had been saying to myself that if I went below 30, I would be happy," she said after shaving 0.18 seconds off her championship record in the 50m breaststroke.

"I normally only have three races in the whole competition, and this time, I've had three races in one day. It is actually really exciting for me. After this week, I am looking forward to a bit of a holiday."

Meilutyte's 50m breaststroke time, which was short of the world record she set last month, was one of six new competition records set on Tuesday night.

Mackenzie Horton took another gold for Australia in the Boys 200m freestyle, while Greece's Apostolos Christou, Russia's Ilya Khomenko, America's Joseph Bentz and the Russian relay team all set new bests.

Earlier in the day, Yaaqoub Al Saadi, 16 and an Al Ain Club swimmer, had again been the pick of the modest field of UAE swimmers at this event.

The home contingent suffered another chastening day in the pool where they train on a daily basis.

Al Saadi's time of 2 minutes, 16 seconds was good enough to see him rank 44th in the morning heats of the boys 200m individual medley, and that was as good as it got for the young national-team swimmers.

His compatriot, Khaled Al Shamsi, finished three places lower in the same ranking, with a swim that was 12 seconds slower than Al Saadi's.

In the 200m freestyle, Abdullah Al Sawai was 61st with a time of 2:07.00, while Ali Al Kaabi's time of 1:01.44 saw him ranked 54th in the 100m butterfly.

pradley@thenational.ae

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