Plymouth schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte blows the world away at London 2012
CITY schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte shocked the swimming world yesterday by qualifying for tonight's Olympic 100m breaststroke final nearly a second faster than anyone else.
The 15-year-old Plymouth College star destroyed a world-class field in both the heats and semi-finals at the Aquatics Centre in London.
Meilutyte smashed her personal best by nearly two seconds in the morning's heats before lowering it even further in the semis, where she was the youngest swimmer by five years.
Her time of 1:05.21 was a new European record and the fourth fastest in history.
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Current world champion Rebecca Soni could only clock 1:05.98, while the third fastest qualifier, Russia's Iuliia Efimova finished 1.36 seconds behind.
No one in the last three years since the change in swimming suits has swum faster than Meilutyte and the Plymouth Leander star, who competes for Lithuania, goes into tonight's final (8.15pm) favourite to win gold.
After the heats, she told Herald Sport: "I did not expect that. I'm absolutely shocked – speechless."
The former Lipson Community College pupil repeated that sentiment after last night's semi.
Her coach Jon Rudd described her as 'super human' and said there was no limit to what she could achieve – and that could be a gold medal and a world record.
"It was all right wasn't it?" laughed Rudd after last night's semi-final.
"I don't know if the word surprised is the right one, but we were pleasantly surprised after the morning heats.
"We thought she could go under the 1:07 mark, but to miss out 1:06 completely and go straight to 1:05 was a bit more than we thought.
"The semis however were more of a test. In the morning heats she went in not knowing how things were going to go.
"She was ranked 10th and she was wondering if she could make the semi-finals in her first Olympics.
"But that heat swim opened a lot of doors for her. What she did extremely well for a 15-year-old in her first Olympics was just get on with things like it was any other meet. She showed no signs of nerves.
"She also does not worry about other athletes and that is the sign of a great athlete.
"We are over the moon."
When asked if she could win and maybe claim a world record, Rudd said: "The only limit to what she is capable of achieving is herself.
"She could swim faster in the final and finish fourth or the final could be won with a slower time.
"What we do know is that there are girls out there with long standing experience and they are going to bring that to the final.
"But what Ruta (left) brings is youth and vibrancy. She is not worried about reputations.
"She has already achieved her ambition by reaching the semi-finals."
Meilutyte's success yesterday delighted her school Plymouth College, who will be hoping for double joy today with Tom Daley also in action in the men's 10m diving synchro (3pm).
A spokesman for Plymouth College said: "Ruta's performance was truly extraordinary – Plymouth College is incredibly proud.
"She said she wanted to make the semi-finals but swimming like that she fully deserves her place in the final. We wish her the very best of luck."