Aquatics / Olympics

Meilutyte unable to defend her Olympic breaststroke title in Rio

Ruta Meilutyte

PLYMOUTH Leander swimmer Ruta Meilutyte was unable to defend her Olympic 100m breaststroke crown.

Meilutyte had sensationally claimed gold as a 15-year-old in London four years ago and was bidding to become the first teenager to claim back-to-back titles in the two-length event.

But the Plymouth College student, who needed two lots of surgery towards the end of last year after breaking her elbow in a cycling accident on her way to training, just could not get close to her best in Rio.

Meilutyte, who swims for Lithuania, finished seventh in the final with a time of 1:07.32, which was nearly three seconds off her personal best and world record.

American Lillia King won in 1:04.93, beating controversial Russian Yulia Efimova, who clocked 1:05.50.  Another American, Catherine Meili was third in 1:05.69.

Meilutyte, whose world record is 1:04.35, just had nothing left after the heats and semi-finals.

It was always going to be tough for her after suffering such a bad injury in the build up to Olympic year and also having to deal with the unsettling Efimova situation and the pressure of being reigning champion. She had to be comforted by her coach Jon Rudd afterwards.

Meanwhile, her Plymouth Leander training partner Ben Proud will make his Olympic debut later today in the heats of the 100m freestyle (5.20pm).

It is not Proud’s main event – his best chance comes in the 50m freestyle – but a good swim in the two-length race could secure the University of St Mark and St John student a place in the Great Britain medley relay squad, which has a real medal chance.

Proud will swim in heat seven of eight, with fellow Brit Duncan Scott swimming in the fifth heat.

The 50m freestyle competition will start on Thursday.

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