Daughter‘s greatest victories will never be known to her mother, whom Rūta lost being only four years old. The girl herself only vaguely remembers her mother, but relatives say that many of the swimmer‘s physical traits are inherited from her, lrytas.lt portal reported (UPDATE) in Summer 2011.
Lithuanian Olympic swimmer Rūta Meilutytė climbs her career ladder in sport not in Kaunas, her birthplace, but in the swimming pools of Plymouth in England. This is the town where her father Saulius Meilutis works.
Rūta went to live with her father and two elder brothers two years ago. Before that she had been staying with her grandmother.
The grandmother has taken mother Ingrida’s place for Rūta, Margiris and Mindaugas since their early childhood.
‘I did not want to lose my connection with the daughter while I was staying in Britain, so I took her with me. Also, it became increasingly difficult for the grandmother to look after such a sprightly young girl’, says Saulius Meilutis.
The tragedy which shook Meilutis family ten years ago was especially painful for the little children.
The mother of three children was killed in an accident in April 2001. On the second day of Easter, the 34-year-old woman was fatally hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Vilnius.
‘At that time I was working in the United States in order to support the family. My wife did not work and was raising children. She was helped by my mother’, says S Meilutis, who has spent eight years in the U.S.
The 13-year-old son Mindaugas was then visiting the UK to practice his English.
‘Back from the UK, Mindaugas saw his mother in the coffin. As the eldest child, he best understood what the loss was. Mindaugas was of an age when the child starts maturing.
‘After losing his mother, Mindaugas became more reserved and more concerned with knowing himself. His interests turned to philosophy and the classic Lithuanian literature’, his father tells.
Rūta was the baby of the family. Her mother’s memory is least alive in her.
But the teenage daughter is now and again complemented by her father: when she turns her head, her profile is reminiscent of her mother. She also seems to have her mother’s gait.
After the tragedy, the mother’s place for the children was taken by the grandmother. Their father returned to the U.S., since the family needed income.
S Meilutis came back across the Atlantic when Rūta was eight years old.
In Kaunas the widower met Rasa, a specialist in English and Russian languages, who was divorced and had a son.
‘Rasa has been part of our family for six years now, even though we aren’t married. She is, so to speak, the third mother to my children – she has helped me to look after my daughter and sons, even if we did not always live together’, says S Meilutis.
Having studied at the Kaunas Institute of Medicine (now the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences) without, however, graduating from it, Meilutis couldn’t get a well-paid job at home and was forced to try his luck abroad.
In 2008 the father of three children headed to England.
He now works in the Plymouth Care Home as a caregiver for the disabled. Every day he looks after the less fortunate and becomes their mate by helping them tidy up, get ready for a walk or attend events.
‘When I left for Plymouth, my sons were somewhat grown and more mature, but I was worried about my daughter.
‘After turning thirteen, Rūta ceased to listen to her grandmother. The sprightly grandchild wanted to be independent. So I decided to take her with me to England.
‘I was worried that she might fall under a bad influence of her friends or surrender to bad temptations’, admits the widower who has never had problems with his teenage sons.
Since Rūta was showing good results in Kaunas Swimming School, one of the most important tasks in Plymouth was to find a good swimming club and an experienced coach.
The father found one of England’s best swimming clubs and persuaded the coach Jonathan Rudd to work with his daughter.
His lessons were golden – as the starts show.
In addition to the sweet taste of victories, the father, however, sees the other side of the medal too.
S Meilutis experiences what it means to be a father not just occasionally but always.
He looks after his daughter every single day of the year: from preparing breakfast, to advising what to wear.
‘Rūta loves herring or smoked bacon with onions, but I cannot treat her like that often, for such food is not good for a sportsperson.
‘An adolescent girl undergoing a lot of physical exertion needs the proper, wholesome food.
‘Before the afternoon training I usually prepare some pasta, which is rich in carbohydrates. While after the training it is usually a high protein meal such as meat or fish with vegetables. For breakfast she normally has cereal.
‘I usually add some banana slices and nuts to them’, father comments on his swimmer daughter’s diet.
He often watches Rūta dressing up and admiring herself before a mirror.
But it is difficult for the father to offer advice – Rūta, striving to be independent, has her own opinion about what to wear.
The girl often wears jeans or tights, t-shirts and a sweater. To her father’s regret, rarely is she in a dress.
‘My income limits her desire to dress exquisitely. We cannot buy too many clothes. Perhaps my daughter is a little upset that I am unable to buy certain things’, speculates Meilutis.
Her talent is innate – father of a very promising swimmer has no doubt about it.
‘I am not a specialist in this sport, but may I say as a father that talents are part of the genetic makeup.
‘Rūta is tall, slim and has long legs. Her feet are rather long too: my daughter already wears size 43 shoes.
‘She inherited these traits from her mother. Ingrida looked like a model: she was slim and had long legs. While Rūta’s character is similar to mine: she is a very determined girl.
‘She was supposed to be born in early April under the sign of Aries. However, she came to the world earlier than the doctors expected – on 19 March, under the sign of Pisces. Therefore I call her my little fish with a ram’s character’, laughs the father.
Agility and physical strength marked Rūta since her childhood.
‘She was very strong because she used to climb the trees as a child, along with her brothers. She was no less agile than the boys’, father admits.
Rūta stood out from her peers with her winner’s mentality.
Even in ball games at school she used to be a leader of her team. Her shots were very precise.
Continuous honest work also served to harden the able-bodied Rūta.
The family lived in their own house, so the girl used to help her grandmother around. Rūta used to cut the firewood and chop it with an axe, prepare garden beds and rake leaves.
So when the seven-year-old girl went to the swimming pool, her subsequent coach Giedrius Martinionis, seeing how well-built she was, said to her father: ‘You must take her to swimming lessons – there will come a time when this little girl will be breaking country’s records’.
And expert’s words came true.