Rūta Meilutytė

Swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, world record holder

Photo creadit: Tomas Adomavičius

She may be young, blonde, and beautiful, but it would be a mistake to call Rūta Meilutytė anything but a powerhouse.  Her dramatic win over Rebecca Soni in the 100-meter breaststroke at the London Olympics made her an international star at the age of 15, and she hasn’t stopped collecting medals yet. Born in Kaunas in 1997 but currently training in England, the good-natured Meilutytė is the current world record holder in both the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke.

People often ask me, “What was it like to win the gold in London?” and I always begin by saying that living and training in London is great, except the weather. And winning the gold at the Olympics? It’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me so far. I’m young, so really there are only a few moments in my life that I can point to and say they were “the happiest” – but breaking the world record in Barcelona is definitely one of them.

I don’t believe that talent gets people the whole way. No matter what you do, you have to work hard in order to achieve your goals. For example, I always find it difficult to wake up for early-morning training sessions, especially if the weather is bad. And then there’s the emotional pressure involved in what you’re trying to achieve – choosing to put yourself in the spotlight, to be the subject of rumors. I think the best way to deal with this is through mental preparation: ignore the negative rumors and the bad things people might say. Prepare yourself the best that you can—because in the end, your performance is entirely up to you.

I find it hard to be interviewed.

My ultimate goal is to be successful, but sometimes I think fame is overrated. I guess it’s a strange thing to say, considering what I do, but I don’t like it when people are full of themselves, and so I try not to be.

Before each competition, I write down the things I want to achieve on a piece of paper. Day-to-day, my goals and passion for swimming are what keep me motivated. As for people, I would say that athletes like Michael Phelps, Kosuke Kitajama, and Rebecca Soni inspire me the most.

While swimming is my passion, my family is the most important thing in my life, and I don’t think that I could have achieved as much as I have if it weren’t for my dad. I’m also lucky for the friends I have, especially those that are very close to me – they let me know if I’m doing something wrong or behaving a certain way.

Sometimes I ask myself, what if I had never chosen to be a swimmer? I believe that you should never be afraid of failure, that you should always strive to do what you want to do. But if I wasn’t a swimmer? I have no idea; maybe I would be a basketball player.

At this point in my life, what truly matters the most to me is my swimming and my education, since I already mentioned my family. I think it’s great being a young athlete because it leaves you loads of room for improvement, and there’s still a lot of time left in your career.

What I miss the most is my grandmother’s cooking.

Very often, people think that I’m weird. I have a fear of spiders, thunder, ghosts, aliens, and snakes. Sometimes, I honestly wish that a zombie apocalypse would happen.

When I have a day off, I always try to relax and rest my mind from swimming do something with my friends. Sure, when I travel, I always meet new people – such as Rebecca Soni, who was awesome and is such a genuine person – but my friends back home always cheer me up when I’m sad.

Every day I try to learn something new, and, every now and then, I eat some chocolate.

I like to see myself as just a normal girl who goes to school and swims, but representing Lithuania is something I have always dreamt of. One of the biggest honors of my life was receiving an award from the President.

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