After once dreaming of making it to the Olympic games and narrowly missing a birth in the Sochi Olympics, Aivaras Tumas has finally made it to the Olympics—just not as an athlete.
Lithuania’s 10-athlete team for the Youth Olympic Games to be held February 12 – 21 in Lillehammer, Norway, will have a perfect guide: former alpine ski racer Aivaras Tumas. Once upon a time he dreamed of making it to the Olympics and competing in the Sochi games with Rokas Zaveckas. Now Aivaras will finally get a chance to take part, just not as an athlete, but as one of the event’s Young Ambassadors.
Though the professional athlete gave up his career for serious studies in England, he briefly returned to Lithuania and dropped by the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LTOK). Aivaras spoke about sports, and what awaits the young Olympians in Lillehammer.
What was your goal in professional alpine skiing, and why did you finally give up the sport?
I started skiing when I was seven years old, and I started to really participate in races when I joined the Kalnu Ereliai Ski Team. Coach Jennifer Virškus from the USA paid special attention to Rokas Zaveckas and I. I was competing for a place at the Sochi Olympics with Rokas; he was stronger, and later I had to give up sports in order to go to university in England. Currently, I’m studying computer engineering at the University of Manchester; I’m in my second year.
How did you learn about the opportunity to be a Young Ambassador at the Lillehammer games?
The LTOK discussed various possible candidates and invited me to participate, not only because I was a candidate for the Olympic team, but also because I took part in two European Youth Olympic Winter Festivals. At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to go because of my studies. Later after discussing it with my father, I decided to accept the offer.
What was your impression of the Young Ambassador meeting in Lillehammer?
The Ambassadors are all young and very warm people who have just completed their professional sports career. They are real leaders, some of them have even participated in the Olympic Games. It was very interesting to meet these kinds of people. I didn’t expect such a warm welcome, they all accepted me very warmly, and they were all interested in what type of country Lithuania is.
What will your roll be in these games?
The athletes don’t only race, they get so much more—they’re able to learn how to be leaders and to act as a team. I will have to help the Lithuanian team, to inform them of what and where things are happening. If the Lithuanian athletes have questions, they will always be able to ask me.
I’ll also have to come up with a variety of activities to introduce the athletes to. I have some good friends from Turkey and together we’re planning to organize relay races, hopefully, we’ll be joined by athletes from other countries—the Russians, Austrians, Estonians.
Is it not disappointing that you’re not able to compete yourself?
No, because now I’m intensely focused on my studies, and competitions require a lot of time and energy. The Ambassador’s role is ideal for me because I can see all the events since I’m no longer an athlete I can relax more, and see the whole operation from the inside.
Do you have any suggestions for other young people who would like to become Young Ambassadors at the Olympic Games?
You need to have reached significant achievements in sports. Although I did not participate in the Olympics, I was an Olympic team candidate and I participated in the Olympic Festivals, so I should be able to reach a similar level. It’s important to be fluent in English. You also need to be a social person, warm and friendly, with good communication skills, and relate well to other people.
The Lillehammer Young Ambassador will leave immediately after his exams. He’ll live in the Olympic Village along with the other team members.
The 10 Lithuanian representatives to the second Youth Olympic Winter Games include biathletes Nadiežda Derendiajeva, Vitalija Kutkauskaitė, Linas Banys; cross-country skier Rokas Vaitkus; alpine skiers Andrejus Drukarovas ir Eglė Augustaitytė; ice hockey player (in the individual challenge tournament) Dino Mukovozas; snowborder Aras Arlauskas; and ice dancing team Guostė Damulevičiūtė ir Deividas Kizala.
The Youth Winter Olympic Games is being held for the second time; the first event was in 2012 in Innsbruck. The Games are organized by the International Olympic Committee and the Lillehammer Youth Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee, managed by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and Lillehammer Municipality.
The Lithuanian National Olympic Committee finances the participation of the young athletes in Lillehammer and contributes to their preparation.
This article was provided by LTOK.lt; translation by Jenn Virskus.