Meilutyte claims World gold to close Melbourne 2022

Image courtesy of FINA / World Aquatics

Lithuanian breaststroke specialist Ruta Meilutyte ended her first full year back in the sport with 50m gold at the World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne, Australia.

The 25-year-old London 2012 Olympic champion initially retired from the sport in 2019.

She won World long course and European titles earlier in 2022 before setting a new world record of 28.37 in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Although Meilutyte was not quite as quick in the final 28.50, it was still enough to hold off South Africa’s Lara van Niekerk and 100m gold medallist Lilly King of the USA.

“I’ve gained so much from this experience,” she told FINA TV.

“I’m really to end it on a positive and it’s great to be happy and enjoying the sport again.”

Image courtesy of Simone Castrovillari / LEN

There was also European success in the men’s 50m breaststroke final with world long course champion Nicolo Martinenghi and Italian team-mate Simone Cerasulolo claiming silver and bronze respectively behind USA’s Nic Fink.

2022 breakout star David Popovici, who memorably broke a 13-year-old long course 100m freestyle world record at the LEN European Championships in Rome, claimed the first senior short course medal of his career with silver in the 200m freestyle.

“I’m very satisfied and this is a benchmark to see what we can do next year in short course,” Popovici said after the final.

“I’m actually going to prepare for it a lot more as I’ve realised that I can swim fast (in the shorter pool) and also the European Short Course Championships are in Bucharest.”

That final, won by Sunwoo Hwang of South Korea, also saw Britain’s Olympic champion Tom Dean finish third, while Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands took bronze in the women’s event.

Martinenghi finished with two individual silver medals, plus relay gold, silver and bronze – LEN

There were also third-place-finishes for Louise Hansson of Sweden and Germany’s Marius Kusch in their respective 100m butterfly finals.

Italian Lorenzo Mora claimed a further bronze, in the 200m backstroke final which also saw European 200m backstroke champion Yohann Ndoye-Brouard finish fourth, but set a new French record of one minutes 49.23 seconds in the process.

The final race was the men’s 4x100m medley relay, which saw Mora return to help Italian team-mates Martinenghi, Matteo Rivolta and Alessandro Miressi claim bronze behind a stunning joint world record for the hosts Australia and the USA who finished in 3:18.98.

That helped Italy take third in the overall Melbourne 2022 medal standings with 16 honours, five gold; behind USA (36 medals, 17 gold) and Australia (26 medals, 13 gold).