Ruta Meilutyte Wins Gold
Day 3 in the Aquatics Centre was all about Ruta Meilutyte for me. In the heats she shocked herself and the world with an outstanding swim and backed that up in the semi-final with a European record. She endeared herself to many with her genuinely humble response and will have had all neutrals behind her for the final, in which she would go up against the great Rebecca Soni.
When that final finally started, it was after a starter error and a delay, after Breeja Larson went into the pool and was given the opportunity to dry of and recompose. We all wondered if that would phase the inexperienced Lithuanian, but it apparently did not, as she again took the race by the scruff of the neck and hung on for gold. An honourable mention must also go to Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson who, I noticed, wasn’t even in a seeded heat but worked her way up to 4th by the end of the final. It does happen, and for all the excellent performances that Team GB have, mostly in picking up more final places than in recent Olympics, wouldn’t it be great for us to have a real breakthrough performance?
Controversy out of the pool
There’s been a load of controversy over Ye Shiwen’s swim in the 400 IM. Why not over Meilutyte’s performance? Well, a provocative view would be that she’s not Chinese – she trains in England (and we’re clean, right?) – but she’s also an endearing character. Her openly emotional response drew us in. We want to believe in her. Maybe that’s the only difference between her an Ye Shiwen (though I’m aware that it wasn’t the improvement of Ye but the the nature of her swim that has drawn most comment).
Jon Rudd, Meilutyte’s coach in Plymouth summed up the qualities that made the young Olympic champion:
I saw her swim about three years ago. She came as a freestyler but we saw what else she could do. She’s a great talent but she has always been an extremely vigilant worker. Everything about her is pretty much how we would want it. She works well in the pool, well in the gym, she is very conscientious about her eating and does everything right.
Now that’s a performance mindset!
Other mentions to…
Oh, there were some other swims last night too. For Team GB Liam Tancock put in a great effort but literally fell a little short of a medal, and Gemma Spofforth put in a solid 5th, but more importantly seems to be a happy person once again. Hannah Miley put the 400 IM behind her and seemed more relaxed as she qualified for the 200 IM final. Yannick Agnel follwed up his great relay performance with a commanding win in the 200 freestyle. Oh, and some Americans won gold medals. But that’s more predictable territory!