At the 2012 Olympics in London, very young girls shone in swimming. American Katie Ledecky caused a sensation by winning gold in the 800-meter freestyle at the age of 15. And 15-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutytė unexpectedly took gold in the 100-meter breaststroke.
The road road in sports, and in life, I want to compare it to a roller coaster, and now the 26-year-old athlete seems to be on the next ascent.
He climbed trees and cut wood.
Ruta was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. When the baby was only four years old, his mother died in a car accident. After the tragedy, Dad moved to the UK, where he started working as a nurse, and the children, Ruta herself and her two older brothers, were left in the care of their grandmother in the village.
At the age of five, the future Lithuanian star began to swim and even then was distinguished by physical endurance. It is not surprising, because together with his brothers, Ruta not only played, but also climbed trees, cut wood.
When Meilutita was 12 years old, her father took her to the United Kingdom, to the city of Plymouth. He saw her as a swimmer’s talent and believed in her future, so he sent the girl to one of the best swimming clubs in town, where John Rood became her coach. Ruta began to progress rapidly and in 2011 won two gold medals at the European Youth Olympic Festival.
Youngest champion in 16 years
A year later, 15-year-old Ruta Meilutytė went to the 2012 Olympics in London as part of her country’s national team. As it turned out, this was the peak of the swimmer’s career. But what! Ruta stunned the judges in the preliminary 100-meter breaststroke, where he set a Lithuanian record. In the semifinals, she set a European record, and in the final she won an Olympic gold medal, being the youngest swimmer to become the winner of the Olympic Games in the last 16 years. We have already mentioned his partner Katie Ledecki. The girls were even born in the same month, in March, but Ruta is two days younger than Katie, so the title of youngest Olympic champion went to her.
Katie Ledecka also has an amazing life story:
A girl who delighted even Michael Phelps. How the amazing Ledecky destroys her record
After a sensational victory in Lithuania, the girl was named Goldfish in her homeland and awarded the Lithuanian Order of Merit.
The following year, at the World Championships in Barcelona, the girl took gold in the same distance, updating the European record, and silver in the 50-meter breaststroke. In 2015, in Kazan, he won another silver medal in the 100-meter crown event. And after that, he went to the Rio Olympics in the state of his country’s hope. The President of Lithuania also flew there to see with her own eyes the triumph of her beloved athlete. However, for Ruta, the exits ended in tears: he only ranked seventh. Experts blamed the decline in results on age-related changes in the girl’s body, and fans blamed coach John Rood. As a result, the mentor had to separate from the neighborhood, and moved to the United States, and Meilutytė returned from the United Kingdom to her native Kaunas.
“I made a shameful mistake”
Ruta returned to performances only in 2017 and in two years won several more medals at the European Championships as well as in short course.
And in 2019, Goldfish, 22, suddenly announced his retirement. The fact is that Ruta missed three doping tests, for which she was threatened with a long disqualification. Staying in the sport and waiting for the punishment to expire would be a blow to the Lithuanian’s image. The fact is that when her main rival, Russia’s Yulia Efimova, was punished for meldonium, Ruta clearly opposed her admission to the Rio Games. At the same time, the situation turned against him. However, the girls do not hold a grudge against each other, and Meilutytė has already admitted that she regrets her words about Efimova.
At home, by the way, the athlete also did not receive support. Here’s how the Lithuanian Swimming Federation reacted to the news of the doping scandal:
“It’s unfortunate that our Goldfish made such an embarrassing mistake. Negligence and irresponsibility can change an athlete’s career, affecting them both financially and morally.
Read more about Rūta Meilutytė’s doping story:
Where are you, honey? Lithuanian champion, who chased Efimova, flees sport
‘Another powerful victory’
For three years, nothing was heard from Meilutita, until in the spring of 2022 she participated in a political rally. The girl swam through the pool, in which there was water painted with red paint, symbolizing blood.
However, there were also sporting achievements: Ruta performed at the World Championships in Budapest and, as in his youth, began to storm the catwalks. First, he won the 50-meter breaststroke, and then took bronze in the 100-meter crown.
At the championship in Fukuoka, Japan, no one knew what to expect from her. And Ruta showed that he is still capable of fighting, and took gold in his favorite distance. It seems that he has regained his former status and, perhaps, 12 years after the first Olympic medal, he will win the second in Paris.
And of course, when Lithuania’s only Olympic champion in swimming wins gold again, the whole country can’t contain its emotions. This is how the president of the Baltic country, Gitanas Nauseda, described the victory: “Route, Lithuania is proud of you! Another powerful victory, another world title and another wave of joy presented to Lithuania! Thank you!”
And where is Yulia Efimova now?
I drove to the United States to see beautiful sunsets. Where did Yulia Efimova disappear after the Olympics?