2014 YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES
Elite swimmer gets off podium in Nanjing to fly straight to Euro C'ships.
Ruta Meilutyte is young enough to compete at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games (YOG) but the 17-year-old swimmer certainly does not need to be there.
Not when one considers that the Lithuanian holds the world record in the 50m and 100m breaststroke and is also already an Olympic and world champion.
Or that the European Championships, a high-level meet featuring the sport's elite, are taking place in Berlin at the same time.
But she saw enough meaning in the YOG to skip half the European meet, missing even her pet event -the 100m breaststroke - to be in Nanjing.
"It's another tick in the box," she told The Straits Times on Wednesday, after winning her second gold of the Games.
Meilutyte, who is based in Plymouth in Britain, flew out later that night for the European meet, where she will swim in the 50m breaststroke prelims tomorrow.
She accepted that her decision to compete in Nanjing would entail going into the European Championships fatigued from travelling.
She said: "There will be more European Championships to come but there will only be one Youth Olympics. I'll be too old for it the next time round."
All YOG athletes must be aged between 14 and 18.
Swimming alongside her peers at the aquatic centre of the Olympic Sports Centre, there was no denying Meilutyte's quality.
She was not far from her best in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke events, first winning the 50m breaststroke in 30.15sec, the third-fastest time of the year for the event. It was slightly outside her world record of 29.48sec.
Her gold-winning time in the 100m - 1min 5.39sec - is the second-fastest of the year.
Her world record was 1:04.35.
She said: "Obviously, the competition at the YOG might not be as hard as it is at the senior level but it doesn't make swimming any easier.
"It's more or less about winning against myself and overcoming. It's nice to be able to inspire the athletes here as well.
"The YOG is different from the Olympics but many things are similar. It's good for everyone to know what it's like at the Olympics. It's been great fun and I've enjoyed it."
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This article was first published on Aug 22, 2014.
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