Road to Sochi: An Olympic blog

Ieva Januškevičiūtė: On her start down a small hill in Lazdijai, a taste for traveling places that don’t include warm beaches, her studies, the Christmas spirit, and the darkness of Sweden.

—From sportas.info

IMG_4400-1

Ieva Januškevičiūtė will be the first Lithuanian athlete to participate in the Olympic women’s alpine skiing events. This is the 19-year-old athlete’s blog entry, “The Road to Sochi.”

Everything started like this… When I was six or seven years old, my dad started to teach me how to ski on the hill behind the Lazdijai swimming pool. Later we went several times per year to ski in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Of course, we also skied at Liepkalnis.

Ieva's first time skiing down a small slope behind the Lazdijai swimming pool.
Ieva’s first time skiing down a small slope behind the Lazdijai swimming pool.

Eagles

When I was about 12, my father found out about a new ski club called Kalnų Ereliai (Mountain Eagles) and signed me up. Sometimes I think that was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. At that time, I was coached by Jennifer Virškus and Miroslavas Urbonavičius. In the beginning the club and the races were just a fun hobby, I never thought I would go so far in this sport. The club was full of kids my age, and because of that my interest in skiing never lessened, and I found I was motivated to come to training, to compete, and to develop. I made friends for life in the club, with whom I’m always in communication, people who understand me.

Friends for life: The 2006 Kalnu Ereliai team photo. Ieva is bottom left in a white helmet.
Friends for life: The 2006 Kalnu Ereliai team photo. Ieva is bottom left in a white helmet.

Interests

I live in Vilnius, where I was born and where I grew up. I like not only skiing, but also other sports. I like to cook, I never say no to a good book or movie, and I love to travel. But, no matter how strange it might seem, I’ve never been in a warm country or by a warm sea. Basically, I try not to sit in once place.

Studies

In 2013, I graduated from Mykolo Biržiškos high school and currently I’m not studying anywhere. I was considering studying at the university, but my experience in school showed that while preparing for the Olympic games, there was no way I could follow an intensive training program and study in a serious way. I like my work to be done, and done well to the end, and that’s why I think it’s best to focus on one thing, and at the moment, that’s skiing. I’m really happy that I have a family that supports me and takes care of me. Without the people closest to me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Olympics

Even as I write this, I don’t fully comprehend that I will go to the Olympic games. I think that’s how it will be right up until the day that I find myself in Sochi. When I was younger, before going to sleep I used to think about how it would be to race against the world’s best alpine skiers and timidly dreamt, that one day, I would have the opportunity to do so. Later, I stopped thinking about it. I think that contributed to the fact that I began to enjoy the training process more and thought less about results. Of course, I was always thinking about results, those that came from hard work and effort, when you start to really enjoy what you are doing, when you really love your job, only then do the results get better. That’s how it was, how I got to the Olympic games. I’m really happy that I get to represent Lithuania in the Olympics and that in the alpine skiing competitions there will be not one but two representatives from our country.

Christmas

This year I didn’t feel at all that Christmas was coming. In earlier years, I was in Vilnius during this time. Then it was all about getting into the Christmas spirit. This year in the time up until Christmas I was traveling in Sweden for races. But I couldn’t wait for Christmas, since finally I would go back to Lithuania to my family and friends whom I had not seen for almost three months. I had been home only nine hours from Italy before I left for Sweden. I didn’t even get to wash my clothes! At least I got to sleep in my bed.

Team

This year I began to train with the Kronplatz Racing Team in Italy. During the summer and fall our main team headquarters was in the Austrian town of Mayerhofen. We trained on the Hintertux glacier. In Mayerhofen, the whole team lived in a rented three-story house. The accommodation at the time was like home, and the team gradually became one family. On the team there are athletes from Georgia, Israel, Brazil, Romania, Ukraine, Greece, Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Latvia. Many of them I’ve already know for a few years, so it’s much easier to communicate and get along. At the beginning of the winter we moved to Brunico, Italy. Now the team is training at Kronplatz. I’ve spent a lot more time in the mountains this year than ever before. Now I’m back from Sweden.

The Kronplatz Racing Team at a training camp in Austria.
The Kronplatz Racing Team at a training camp in Austria.

Sweden

In Sweden we traveled to participate in 11 races—seven slaloms and four giant slaloms. Sweden is very attractive to me as a country because it is full of friendly people and even more good slalom skiers. During that time, Western Europe was still lacking snow. In Sweden there were very good conditions for training and racing. Almost everywhere. The first place where we raced was Kiruna, one of the northernmost places in Sweden, way north of the Arctic Circle. There at that time of the year the sun almost doesn’t rise, and if you do find it, it’s not for more than a couple of hours. It’s quite a drastic change after training in sunny Italy. Also, it was quite cold and windy. Almost 20 degrees below zero (Celsius). In the first race of the series I just tried to feel good in training and take that onto the race track, but it didn’t turn out how I had wanted it to. After Kiruna, we went to Tarnaby. There the weather was warmer. It snowed right before the race, and during the race it started to rain. The weather was really awful and every day we came back soaked.

Dark days racing in Sweden.
Dark days racing in Sweden.

Of course, in slalom I was finally able to “angrily” put together two good runs and score the best FIS slalom points of my career (85.66). After the race, as always, I rushed to pack my bags and we took off to a new location. The next stop was Arvidsjaur. There, we finally saw a large and beautiful sun. But as far as the race was concerned, it was harder than the other places. From Arvidsjaur we went to Åre. There we had two giant slalom races. And both of them were held that same evening. The race started at four o’clock. And we had four runs. In the first race I felt really strong. In that one I achieved my career best giant slalom result (112.40 FIS points). In the second race I felt tired, since it finished at 10 o’clock. We got back home and I collapsed straight into bed and fell asleep.

The last race of the trip took place in Bydalsfjaellen. I like the slope there and felt like I could have a good race. That feeling changed on the second day. The weather was horrible, it snowed constantly, there was zero visibility, and on top of that there was a strong wind. Still despite the weather I tried to stay positive, and posted my second best career result in slalom (91.31 FIS points).

In general the trip was very successful. During the races I worked to keep a rhythm and I felt really stable. I hope I will continue to grow and that this season will be very successful.

I wish everyone a happy holidays and snow, it’s really missing during Christmas.

 

2 Replies to “Road to Sochi: An Olympic blog”