Alpine Skier Reaches Symbolic Goal

Just last year, Rokas Zaveckas was starting in children’s races; this year, he has achieved a result that has been previously accomplished only by our country’s two Olympic participants.

—Marius Grinbergas, sportas.info. Translation by Jenn Virškus for kalnuereliai.com

Rokas Zaveckas and Vitalij Rumiancev in Sweden. Photo by Giedrius Zaveckas.

The 15-year-old from Vilnius moved beyond what winter sports people-in-the-know recognize as an important milestone—to get a result in a race under 100 FIS points. The lower the points, the better the result.

Last week, during four slalom races in Sweden, Rokas finished with a double-digit result three times. He is the third Lithuanian alpine skier to break this symbolic level—and the youngest in history. Previously it was achieved by our country’s representative to the 1998 Olympics Games in Nagano, Japan, Lithunian-American Linas Vaitkus, and Vitalij Rumiancev who competed in the 2006 Games in Torino, and the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Rumiancev was 20 by the time he achieved his first sub-100 result.

“I would not call it a great victory. We believed that sooner or later we would reach that mark. It was the goal of our program this season,” said Rokas’ father and coach, Giedrius Zaveckas.

FIS points are calculated by two criteria: How far behind a skier is from the race leader—for each second lost, you get a set number of points (which is different in each event), these are called race points—plus the penalty, which is calculated roughly by averaging the FIS points of the top five skiers in the race who finish in the top ten.

A world cup winner always receives zero points. For example, in the February 17th race, winner Emil Johansson of Sweden received 20.74 points—that was the same as the penalty calculated by the FIS points of the first five athletes entered in the race who finished in the top ten. Rokas finished 47th. In the two runs, his total time was 8.38 seconds behind the 24-year-old Swede. For this, the 15-year-old received 85.2 points. This is his personal record.

Rumiancev, now 26, also achieved a personal best in this race. He finished 34th (5.39 seconds behind the leader), with a result of 62.2 FIS points. The Lithuanian record-holder according to FIS points is the retired racer Linas Vaitkus. His best result was 43.86 points in Giant Slalom. Vaitkus took 25th place in the Nagano Olympic Downhill race, receiving 65.36 points. The Lithuanian athlete was 6.11 seconds behind the Olympic champoin, Frenchman Jean-Luc Cretier.

FIS points play an important role in determining Olympic berths for cross-country and alpine skiers. Also, skiers with the lowest points in international ski competitions get the lowest start numbers. That is important, because the condition of the course is poorer for those with later start numbers.

Our country’s alpine skiers started four races in Sweden. At the first race in Gopshus, Rokas finished 45th from 93 skiers who started and got 90.68 points. The Lithuanian’s two-run time was 1:37.71 seconds. The Swedish winner Henrik Gunnarssonas had a time of 1:27.36 (18.41 FIS points). Rumiancev did not finish.

The second race also took place in Gopshus. It was in this race on February 17th that both Rokas and Rumiancev achieved personal-best results. Later, the athletes moved to Borlaenge where there were two more events. “They have been so successful. In the first run of the first race, Rokas and Vitalij skied out in the same place. The weather was getting warmer, the show was soft, and the course was full of holes. Course workers tried to smooth out the wholes, but it just deepened the ruts. Visability was poor, and in that place more than one athlete skied out of the race,” said G. Zaveckas.

In the second race in Borlaenge Rumiancev again did not finish. Rokas was 31st (1:26.38,;96.12 FIS points) from 92 participants. The race was won by Petter Robertsson of Sweden (1:17.01; 21.9 FIS points).

17-year-old Ieva Januškevičiutė also started the races in Sweden, finishing two of the four races. The skier from Vilnius took 28th place in Gopshus (1:45.90; 144.79 FIS points) from 89 participants. In Borlaenge she finished 73rd from 103 skiers at the start (1:38.64; 167.9 FIS points).

“We do well in Sweden. Last year Rokas was third in the FIS Children’s race [in Taernaby],” said G. Zaveckas with a smile.

Rokas had planned to start in the Head Cup race in Ignalina this coming weekend, but due to poor weather, the race has been postponed. Next week he will travel to Slovakia or the Czech Republic for FIS races.

In the middle of March, the best racers from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia will travel to Finland to compete in the Baltic Cup. “After that, we will compete in at least one race in Scandinavia, they are held there into the middle of April,” said G. Zaveckas.