Ruta Meilutyte wants a legacy in Lithuania
Plymouth-based schoolgirl and Olympic swimming champion Ruta Meilutyte has admitted she tries to keep grounded by forgetting about her gold medal heroics at the London Games.
And the 15-year-old hopes her performance at the Aquatics Centre will put a greater emphasis on sport in her home country of Lithuania.
Meilutyte, who arrived in England three years ago to pursue a career as an athlete, says she has benefited from the sort of multi-million-pound facilities in her adopted city of Plymouth that her homeland can only dream of.
The youngster was the unlikely winner of the 100m breaststroke, claiming Lithuania’s first Olympic gold in the pool, having trained at the new Plymouth Life Centre in the run-up to the competition.
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Meilutyte was given a hero’s welcome after the Games when she returned to Lithuania, a country where swimming barely registers on the sporting scale, she said.
Asked whether she considers herself a national hero in Lithuania, Meilutyte said: “No, I just consider myself a normal girl really. I don’t like thinking that I have won a gold medal, I just want to do what I have been doing before.
“There are still loads of things I want to achieve. I want swimming to become more popular in Lithuania, that’s my dream.
“Basketball is like a second religion in Lithuania, most other sports are in the shade. Plymouth Life Centre is an amazing pool and we don’t have that in Lithuania. I am trying to get people’s attention.”
Meilutyte last night took part in the London 2012 homecoming parade in Plymouth, on an open-top bus tour alongside Devon Olympians including bronze medallist Tom Daley and divers Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow.