Plymouth's Ruta Meilutyte wins shock gold (but it's not for Great Britain)

Fifteen-year-old Lithuanian from Tom Daley's alma mater stuns field in thrilling 100m breaststroke final

The Aquatics Centre

There will, after all, be an Olympic gold medal to be celebrated by the staff and pupils of Plymouth College. Just hours after Tom Daley, the school's most famous graduate, failed to claim a medal, Ruta Meilutyte produced the third of three astonishing swims spread over the course of two days to claim gold for Lithuania at the age of 15.

On an unrewarding night for Britain – Liam Tancock, the sole medal hope, faded to finish fifth in the 100m backstroke – the home support were able to claim a victory of sorts in the 100m breaststroke through Meilutyte. She has already been asked about switching allegiance and firmly declined.

Like Daley before her, Meilutyte is on a scholarship at the private school and trains at the same facility in Plymouth, but unlike the poster boy of Team GB she did not arrive in London with any great expectation resting on her young shoulders. Her coach, Jon Rudd, said they would have settled for a personal best and a place in the final. He got both.

It is the second astonishing teenage victory to come in the first three nights in the pool, but in many ways hers is even more remarkable a performance than that of Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old Chinese who shattered the world record in the 400m individual medley and set a new Olympic mark in the 200m individual medley last night.

Meilutyte, the only female in the Lithuanian swim team, is ranked No 1 in the world in her age group but coming into the Olympics had managed to record only the 14th best time in the world this year. She has now recorded the fastest.

Whereas the raucous atmosphere inside the Aquatics Centre seems to have overawed some of the British swimmers, Meilutyte has thrived. From the moment she touched the water in her heat on Sunday morning she has dominated the event.

She began with a personal best and then in that night's semi-finals she broke the European record to advance to the final as quickest qualifier.

The rest of the swimming world was all too aware of her by the time she stepped out of the call room last night, clad in her dark green swim hat with the Lithuanian flag on one side. She appeared nerveless; she was unaffected by a false start from Breeja Larson, the American two lanes down, and also unbothered by the few minutes' wait that followed as the starting mechanism was reset.

Coming down the final 50m she opened up her lead and then held on as Rebecca Soni responded over the closing 15m. She touched 0.08sec quicker than the Beijing gold medallist, hauled herself out of the water and perched on the lane divider waving ecstatically to the crowd.

Meilutyte, whose mother died in a car accident when she was four, arrived in Britain two years ago. Her father had come to Plymouth to work as a carer, seen the facilities at the Leander club in the city and suggested she join him. "It will be good for your swimming," he informed her.

Her progress under Rudd, who has a stable of impressive young swimmers, has been meteoric. She was understandably taken aback. "It's too much for me," she said. "I really can't say anything. It was hard and difficult. At the moment I can't speak too much. But it means a lot to me and I'm so proud." Tears followed on the podium.

The best two British swims of the night came from women too. Caitlin McClatchey and Hannah Miley making finals in the 200m freestyle and the 200m individual medley relay respectively. McClatchey, at her third Olympics, produced her best swim since Beijing, setting the pace in a high-class field for the second semi-final. She led at the final turn, only for Federica Pellegrini to edge past but McClatchey held on to second to finish ahead of Missy Franklin.

The two men in action, Tancock and Robbie Renwick, were both in finals but neither troubled the podium. Renwick will be the more satisfied with his sixth place in the 200m freestyle final amid some stellar performers. It marked an improvement of two places on Beijing.

For Tancock, McClatchey's partner, it was one better than in 2008 but represents another frustrating failure to transform his dominance over 50m into the 100m. He swum his first world championships in 2005 and it is at world level where his success has come. The 50m backstroke, at which he excels as the world record holder, is not an Olympic event.

Gemma Spofforth completed the last individual race of her career with a creditable fifth in the 100m backstroke behind Missy Franklin. Spofforth will retire after the Games and plans to attempt to climb Everest. She will probably discover Meilutyte waiting for her.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders