Fifteen-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte edged out American world champion Rebecca Soni for the gold medal in an exciting Olympic Games 100m breaststroke final.
Meilutyte led all the way to post a brilliant win over Soni in one minute 05.47 seconds, prevailing by just eight-hundredths of a second.
The schoolgirl became the first to win a swimming gold medal for Lithuania, which was once part of the Soviet Union and tearfully said: “I can’t believe it, it’s too much.”
Meilutyte, who used her early speed off the blocks, held on to her lead despite Soni’s desperate finishing lunge at the wall. Japan’s Satomi Suzuki was third.
Meilutyte, coached in England at Plymouth College, arrived at the Games with a best time of 1:07.20 and bettered it by 1.73secs to become Olympic champion.
“I knew it was going to come down to the last five metres and I wish I had five more metres, but it was a good race overall,” said Soni.
The start of the final was delayed by a technical malfunction forcing American Breeja Larson prematurely into the water. “The start was definitely interesting, we were all put off in the same way, I felt sorry for Breeja, who actually jumped in the water,” she said. “It is what it is.”
Australia’s triple Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Leisel Jones could not go the pace and finished fifth.
Earlier, American swimming sensation Missy Franklin produced a rousing finish to overhaul Australian Emily Seebohm and win the women’s 100m backstroke final.
Franklin only swam minutes earlier in another event but still had enough to finish the better to down Seebohm in 58.33seconds. Seebohm was second in 58.68secs with Japan’s Aya Terakawa 58.83secs third.
The 17-year-old from Colorado could swim four individual events and three relays in London, a programme that could make her the first US woman to swim seven events at one Olympics.
“This is indescribable, I can’t believe that just happened,” Franklin gushed moments after her win. “I saw my parents reaction on the screen and I just started bawling.
“You never know until you see the scoreboard, I was just going as fast as I could I put in 110 percent effort and all the work paid off. I couldn’t be happier right now. I’ve just won an Olympic gold medal, so I am not thinking straight right now.”
The voluble American added: “It is exceeding the expectations a hundred billion times more than I think it could be like. I knew Emily Seebohm had taken out that heat, so I knew I needed to be out there and give it everything I had coming home.”
Seebohm, the fastest into the final, had swum an Olympic record in the semi-finals of 58.23sec but could not withstand Franklin’s powerful finish. British hope Gemma Spofforth failed to improve on her fourth on Beijing, coming home fifth.
Meanwhile, Matt Grevers led a US one-two finish in the men’s 100m backstroke, capturing gold in an Olympic record of 52.16sec. Grevers edged ahead with about 25m remaining and drove to the wall.