Lithuanian honour for Plymouth swim coach Jon Rudd
TOP city coach Jon Rudd has been given a massive accolade by the president of Lithuania for helping swimmer Ruta Meilutyte win an Olympic gold medal.
He also received an Olympic star from the country's swimming officials on the same day.
Meilutyte, aged 15, became the top Lithuanian athlete of all time when she won a gold in breaststroke during the London Games.
The teenager, who attends Plymouth College and swims for Plymouth Leander, was bestowed instant super-star status in her home country.
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Rudd and Meilutyte were in Lithuania to discuss her future swimming programme with the country's Olympic officials.
To Rudd's surprise, he was invited to the presidential palace in Vilnius – Lithuania's capital – where he received the Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits from president Dalia Grybauskaite.
Meilutyte was awarded the Grand Cross – the highest of five ranks of Order for Merits – on August 10.
The official decree on the conferment of the state decoration declares that it has been awarded to Rudd for 'merits in the development of sports in Lithuania and in recognition of commitment and dedication to achieving victory at the Olympic Games in London'.
In a letter to Rudd, who is head coach of Plymouth Leander and director of swimming at Plymouth College, President Grybauskaite wrote: "I would like to extend my sincere thanks for your contribution in training Ruta to represent Lithuania in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"Your outstanding talent and persistent daily effort have brought us Olympic gold.
"Hard work, wise advice, psychological support and your ability to steer the athlete to the right path, which you, as a true professional demonstrated, have yielded brilliant and joyful results to Lithuania. Thank you for your energy and efforts that inspired and led your protege to victory.
"Please accept my best wishes for your strength and success."
Later the same day, Rudd was presented with a second award, the Olympic Gold Star, the highest honour the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee can bestow upon an individual.
Meilutyte's performance at the London Games saw her break the European record on her way to claiming gold.
Rudd told Herald Sport: "I was extremely honoured to receive these two awards from the President, the Olympic Committee and the people of Lithuania as I understand what a proud nation they are.
"Ruta's success means so much to them and I was delighted to share the euphoria that Lithuania felt and still feels today."
He added: "I received a letter saying I was going to receive an award, but I didn't really look at it and I didn't realise what it was. I was invited to the presidential palace and found myself in front of 500 people.
"Ruta went for a swim in one of the pools there and around 1,000 primary school kids turned up to give her flowers and cards.
"Then I received the star from the Olympic Committee, as we were there to discuss what Ruta will be doing in the lead-up to the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
"We were only there for 48 hours, but we didn't stop."