After the Youth Olympic Games, Rokas Zaveckas will continue to compete in international ski races, while Laura Pamerneckyte will return to Lithuania and have to forget about sport until the summer.—Marius Grinbergas, sportas.info; Translation by Jenn Virškus for kalnuereliai.com
Remembering more than just the race
Lithuanian alpine skiers brought back not only their experience and many gifts, but a lot of excitement from the first Youth Winter Olympic Games held in Innsbruck, Austria.
“I’ve never participated in such an event, and probably never will again. I was most impressed by the fact that it was not only about sports, there was also a cultural aspect. It was unexpected, and most memorable,” said 16-year-old Laura Pamerneckytė.
That was echoed by 15-year-old Rokas Zaveckas, “I spent two very interesting weeks in Innsbruck. I liked both the competition and the cultural program.
Rokas faced a challenging match not only on the slopes—in the Games opening ceremony, he was the flag carrier for the Lithuanian delegation. “Carrying the flag was not really difficult, but it was interesting,” said the alpine skier with a smile.
About the different results
Of the Lithuanian delegation, which consisted of the two alpine skiers as well as two cross-country skiers and two biathletes, Zaveckas competed in the most races. In the Super-G (super giant slalom) he finished 35th out of 55 racers, in the Super Combined (SG and slalom) he was 28th out of 55, in Giant Slalom 29th out of 64, and in Slalom he finished 24th out of 62 racers.
“I thought the results would be worse. I’m very pleased that it went so well.” Zaveckas was a year younger than almost all of the other racers.
The skier is supported by his father and coach Giedrius Zaveckas, “His performance was very good. Rokas’s level has significantly improved. In the second run of the slalom, he lost only 3.5 seconds to the leader.” According to G. Zaveckas, Rokas’s does best in slalom, and has shown a marked improvement in his giant slalom technique.
“In slalom, we’d like to have what we call depth—that is, to ski flat out, not holding anything back. But he did not allow himself to do that in this Olympics, because we realized that this time, the most important thing was to finish. In future international competitions we’ll risk more, especially in slalom, we’ll look for speed in every turn. Of course, there will be crashes. But let’s see how it goes,” explained G. Zaveckas.
Laura Pamerneckytė evaluated her results more critically. “My results were only mediocre. But on the other hand, I am very happy to have been there,” assured the athlete, who finished 36th out of 53 racers in the giant slalom. She did not finish the slalom race.
A career stopped by injury
With out a doubt, the second-year Vilniaus Simono Daukanto high school student does not appear to suffer from chronic knee injury, but it is slowing the talented skier’s career. When asked whether her injuries will be operated on, Pamerneckytė said, “I’m not sure about the operation, but I know that I won’t be able to participate in sport until summer, since it’s not just a little injury, it’s a very serious problem. So for now, all my attention will be on my studies. Anyway, without sport, I’ll have to put my energy somewhere!”
It’s because of her injuries that Pamerneckytė was forced to leave the International Ski Federation (FIS) camp, where the high-level of coaching has attracted talented alpine skiers from all over Europe. Last year, three Lithuanian skiers were invited to this camp—besides Laura, Rokas Zaveckas and Aivaras Tumas were also invited.
Pamerneckytė also hopes to be among the FIS camp participants this year, although it may be prevented by her health problems, since the selection is in late spring when she will still be unable to train at 100%. “It will be a very, very long road to get invited there again, but at the same time, I do not want to damage my health. If it does improve, it would be great to be included in the selection, as much as it will be possible to prepare,” explained the skier.
Good physical condition is the most important thing for FIS camp selection. Experienced professional coaches watch the young athletes for a couple of weeks, with out any comments or advice. And then they announce who will be returning to participate in the autumn and winter camps.
A significant benefit of camp
Rokas Zaveckas participated in two FIS camps this season. The third took place at the same time as the YOG, so from the Lithuanians, only Aivaras Tumas remained with the other camp participants.
“The camp has many benefits. After all, we would not have had another chance to have really productive training time with such good coaches,” said Zaveckas happily. He will also really work to be selected again into the camp, although he’ll have to sacrifice all his free time because of the need to combine sport and education.
“When I return home to Lithuania from races or training camps, I have no free time. I want to relax, but my studies are more important,” explained the Šv. Kristoforo high school freshman. While abroad he communicated with his teachers via the internet, and reports what he’s learned when he returns. After the YOG, Rokas rushed to school. His classmates were waiting for him, and congratulated him, asking him to share his impressions.
Coping with the excitement
At FIS camp, the Lithuanians not only improved their skills, but they also made a lot of friends. Many of them participated in the Olympics, so they had friends to hang out with there. They also made new friends in Innsbruck, where all of the YOG athletes trained, ate, and enjoyed the entertainment. During the Olympics there was a wide range of cultural and educational events. The athletes learned many new things, and received various gifts. The events were full of YOG participants. “We got commemorative sunglasses, cups and really good headphones…” mentioned Pamerneckytė.
Although the greatness of the Olympic games left a lasting impression on the alpine skiers, at the start, they were able to overcome the burden of responsibility and excitement.
“It was difficult—the course was longer and more difficult, and the competition was stronger. But psychologically we did very well overall with the difficulties we faced,” said Zaveckas.
“Of course the excitement was very high. However, when you need to start, you have to focus and block out all the excitement,” explained Pamerneckytė.
Zaveckas ready to ski
Laura’s season is already over, but Rokas still has training and races to come. In February, the Vilnius resident will test his abilities in several international FIS races—this is his first season of adult competition, until now he has competed among children.
“This season is a transition, so Rokas is still allowed to use shorter skis. From next season, he will not be allowed to use skis shorter than 195cm for giant slalom, and 165cm in slalom. This year in slalom, Rokas races with 155cm skis. Although he already wants longer ones, so the transition will not be difficult. This year, only because of the Olympics we kept the shorter skis. Of course, for SG he raced with the previous year’s model but they still met the requirements for adult skis,” explained G. Zaveckas, who is not only his sons coach, but his main sponsor. The talented athlete gets a little assistance from Maxima, and the Lithuanian Ski Federation who works together with Fischer—one of the best alpine ski manufacturers, represented in Lithuania by Oy Patrol AB—helped him to acquire his skis, which cost thousands of euros.
“Rokas’s skis are just as good as any of the other racers. They are the latest models,” said G. Zaveckas, whose son has neither time, nor money.
In mid-March, the Zaveckas family will travel together with a group skiers from Lithuania to Finland, where the traditional Batic Cup is held. Last year, Rokas was not at the top of his age group in all of the races. The talented Lithuanian athlete will try again this year.