Ruta Meilutyte ends 'amazing' year with treble medal success
CITY swimming sensation Ruta Meilutyte is 'over the moon' after completing an 'amazing year' of competition in record-breaking fashion at the World Short Course Championships at Istanbul.
Plymouth Leander's Olympic gold medal-winning teenager returned with two golds and a silver to add to her growing medal collection from the Turkey tournament.
Lithuanian international Meilutyte returned from the championships with the women's 100 metres breaststroke title to match the Olympic Games crown she won in the event.
She also won gold in the 50m breaststroke in Istanbul and took silver in the individual medley.
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Meilutyte, before joining last night's stellar cast of celebrities at the BBC's Sports Personality ceremony, told Herald Sport she was still coming to terms with a 12 months where she has gone from a relative unknown to one of the most exciting swimming talents in the world.
She said: "It's kind of surreal how things have gone for me but I'm over the moon at my success and the results at the Worlds.
"It's been an amazing year. To win two medals as well as the 100m breaststroke, which is what I've been working for, makes me really happy.
"It makes all the hard work worthwhile that I put in at the (Life Centre) pool with my coach Jon (Rudd).
"I've had so many kind wishes from people in the UK wishing me well and also from my home country which is very nice.
"I've had a lot of fun this week in Istanbul and I'm very, very happy to have come back with three medals from my first world championships."
Joining Meilutyte in the audience at the Beeb's big annual sporting shindig last night was fellow Plymouth College student and Olympian Tom Daley.
Meilutyte said she had been whisked by car to the ExCel Centre in east London for the awards, minutes after jetting in from Istanbul.
"We had to leave Turkey to get back in time for the sports awards. I didn't have chance to speak to my family," she said.
"I'm coming back to Plymouth (today) and to college for training. Then I'm going home for Christmas."
The 15-year-old student had already won two medals in Istanbul last week: she won gold in the 50m breaststroke on Thursday and followed that with silver in the 100m individual medley 24 hours later.
Meilutyte also became the first swimmer in the history of the championships to win two golds before her 16th birthday.
Accompanied by both Leander and Lithuania's head coach Jon Rudd, Meilutyte finished up with three medals in as many days and left records shattered in her wake.
Meilutyte's time of 1:03.52 beat the championship record of 1:03.98 set by America's Rebecca Soni in Dubai in 2010.
Meilutyte went out fast and was under world-record pace over the first half of the final and held on for her second gold medal of the meet.
She admitted the 50m breaststroke and the 100m medley had not been a priority at the outset.
"I didn't really train for the 50m breaststroke as all my thoughts were for the 100m," she said.
"It didn't go the way I wanted in the morning (in the heats) and I didn't get a long break after the semi-finals, but finally I got it right.
"That was the main thing. It's the first time I'm actually really happy with my race, with the splits and the process. Even if I came last, I would be as happy as I am now.
"I'm really looking forward to competing in Barcelona (at the 2013 World Championships) and getting more experience there."
Meilutyte topped the podium and was joined by Jamaica's Alia Atkinson, who snatched silver in 1:03.80 and bronze medal winner Rikke Moeller Pedersen, of Denmark, who clocked 1:04.05 for the bronze medal.
Rudd said: "What Ruta has achieved here at the world champs simply underlines what a very, very fine athlete she is.
"We're both delighted at her success and that she has now picked up a second gold in the 100m breaststroke to go with her Olympic medal.
"She's such a strong and disciplined trainer that I'm not surprised she is able to raise the bar for herself.
"If we have a magic ingredient it is that we are a team, Ruta and I – we talk things through together.
"That seems to be key to our working relationship."