Lithuanian eager to see if she can go faster in Dubai than best times she set in Barcelona, reports Ahmed Rizvi.
Ruta Meilutyte in Dubai for World Junior Championships record
DUBAI // Ruta Meilutyte is only 16, but she already boasts a hugely impressive resume. One of swimming's superstars, the Lithuanian counts an Olympic and three world championship golds among her collection.
Lithuania's youngest Olympic champion in history, Meilutyte holds six European records as well and has topped the podium at the European Junior Championships and the European Youth Olympic festival.
A World Junior Championships medal, however, is missing from her collection and Meilutyte is determined to achieve just that this at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex. But she will not be content with completing her box set of gold at every major swimming championship.
Instead, she is keen to improve on the world records she set at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona four weeks back.
"I have trained really hard for the past few weeks and I am really looking forward to the competition here," Meilutyte said on Sunday. "It's going to be great fun and I'm motivated to swim fast. I want to see if it's possible to go faster than Barcelona."
Meilutyte became Lithuania's first swimming world-record holder on July 29 when she won the 100m breaststroke semi-final with a time of 1 minute, 4.35 seconds; she later took the gold with a time of 1:04.42. Five days later, she set another world mark while winning the 50m breaststroke semi-finals in 29.48. However, she could not match her time in the final the next day and had to be content with silver.
"I came second in the 50m breaststroke and I was very disappointed, but then I learnt that not everything goes the way you want it to go," Meilutyte said. "You have to accept that and move on. So I have gained a lot of experience and I am grateful for that."
She is hoping to keep that learning process going at the World Junior Championships, which start on Monday with a record 753 swimmers from 91 countries taking part. Meilutyte is entered in nine events – the most she has ever attempted.
"It's not about just the medals, it's about improving myself and seeing what I am capable of," she said. "I am doing a few more events this week, so that's a bit of challenge for myself to do more events. Normally, I do one or two events in a competition, so this going to be something different. It's quite a busy schedule this week and I am really looking forward to it. I will try and maybe go faster than Barcelona."
Carol Zaleski, the chairman of Fina's Technical Swimming Committee, is confident Meilutyte can do that. She also believes a few junior world records could sink at the Hamdan Complex.
"I think there is a very high quality level here at this World Junior Championships," Zaleski said. "It's a mix of some stars and primarily developing swimmers, who will be the next Olympic champions. So we look forward to a very fine competition.
"I am not going to predict what kind of records we are going to see. Certainly we will see many junior world records and hopefully we may see one or two world records."
When Today to Saturday
Where Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex, Dubai
Daily schedule Heats from 10am-12.30pm; semi-finals and finals from 6pm-8pm
Tickets Dh20 per day or Dh80 for the week, available at the venue
Free bus service From Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall daily, both sessions
Khaled Ahmed (200m IM, 200m breast); Abdulla Al Balooshi (200m and 400m free), Marwan Al Hammadi (50m back, 50m free); Ali Al Kaabi (50m and 100m fly); Seif Al Mutawwa (50m and 100m breast); Ahmed Al Neyadi (50m free, 50m fly, 50m breast); Yaaqoub Al Saadi (50m, 100m and 200m back, 200m IM); Abdulla Al Sawai (200m IM, 200m free); Khaled Al Shamsi (200m IM, 200m breast); Hamad Al Wahshi 100m breast); Hamdan Mohammed (100m back)
Five events to watch
Girls 50m breaststroke
World-record holder Ruta Meilutyte is entered, meaning history could be on offer. Ukraine’s Viktoriya Solnceva could challenge Meilutyte’s supremacy.
Girls 100m freestyle
European Junior Championship record-holder Maria Baklakova of Russia, Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte and Australian Shayna Jack, 14, occupy the top three seed times.
Girls 200m IM
Japan’s Emu Higachi (2:12.00), the two Americans Kathleen Baker (2:13.35) and Ella Eastin (2:13.66), Meilutyte (2:13.69) and Japan’s Hiroko Makino (2:14.62) are closely matched.
Boys 50m freestyle
There are eight swimmers seeded 22.71 or better in this event, with Russian European junior record holder Evgeny Sedov (22.06) heading the pack.
Boys 100m freestyle
With five swimmers under 50 seconds, it could be close. European Junior champion Evgeny Sedov (49.23) once again heads the field.
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