Barcelona, Spain • Ruta Meilutyte just keeps getting better.
A surprising gold medalist at last year’s London Olympics, the 16-year-old from Lithuania set the first world record of the world swimming championships Monday night — in the semifinals of the 100-meter breaststroke, no less.
Meilutyte will be an overwhelming favorite in the final Tuesday, but she considers the world record a bigger accomplishment than a gold medal. She nearly broke the mark during the morning preliminaries, then returned in the evening to go even faster.
The youngster touched in 1 minute, 4.35 seconds, beating the record set by American Jessica Hardy in 2009 at the end of the rubberized suit era.
“My biggest aim is accomplished now and I’ll give it my best shot in the final,” said Meilutyte, who trains in Britain. “It’s one of the steps, one of the dreams. Obviously, a gold medal would be a cherry on top.”
The kids are doing all right at these worlds, that’s for sure.
Eighteen-year-old Missy Franklin cruised into the final of the 100 backstroke as the top qualifier, despite slipping on her start in the semis. Another young American, 16-year-old Katie Ledecky, followed up her gold medal in the 400 freestyle by easily qualifying for the 1,500 free final.
There were no American golds on the second night of swimming at the Palau Sant Jordi.
Christian Sprenger made sure the Australian men won’t endure another gold-medal shutout like the one in London, edging South African world-record holder Cameron van der Burgh in the men’s 100 breast. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom knocked off another world-record holder, Dana Vollmer of the U.S., in the 100 butterfly. Vollmer, who’s been battling an illness, settled for the bronze with a time more than a second off her gold-medal performance at the Olympics.
Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu ran away with a dominating win in the women’s 200 individual medley, with Ye Shiwen among those in her wake. The 17-year-old from China, one of the breakout stars at the last Olympics, was last at the final turn and settled for fourth — not even making the medal podium in Barcelona.
Longtime Brazilian star Cesar Cielo took gold in the 50 fly — a non-Olympic event — with Eugene Godsoe of the U.S. grabbing the silver.
Australia’s Alicia Coutts didn’t win gold but deserved a shout-out for pulling off a grueling double. She finished second in both the 100 fly and 200 IM, one night after anchoring the Aussies to silver in the 4x100 free relay.
Coutts was in tears after getting caught by American Megan Romano in the relay, feeling she let her team down, but the Aussie is piling up quite a medal haul in Barcelona.
The home crowd got a thrill when Mireia Belmonte of Spain won bronze in the 200 IM.
Meanwhile, Ryan Lochte put himself in position to take a run at his first individual gold of these championships. He was the second-fastest qualifier in the semifinals of the 200 free behind Russia’s Danila Izotov.