Rokas Zaveckas is the primary candidate to represent Lithuania in one month—Feb. 7—in the men’s Olympic alpine skiing events. This is the 17-year-old’s first entry in the “Road to Sochi” blog.
Sometimes they say, that serious athletes don’t have a real childhood or adolescence. It’s not true. My childhood was one of the best there can be. Without sport, I wouldn’t have had those experiences.
Of course, there wasn’t a lot of free time, but that was only in the winter, because after the trips I had to get serious about my studies. In the sumer, there was kite surfing, sailing, and wakeboarding. Everything was about sports. I can’t sit still. Continue reading “Road to Sochi: An Olympic blog”
For the past half year, 17-year-old Rokas Zaveckas has been like a guest in his own house. From a camp at the end of June on an Austrian glacier, the road to the Sochi Olympics took the skier from Vilnius to South America for two months. There he participated in an International Ski Federation (FIS)-sponsored training camp in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, and also started 11 races in Argentina and Chile.
Upon his return to Europe, the skier spent just a couple of weeks in his birthplace before leaving again. This time, a month of training in the Alps. In the three weeks before Christmas, Zaveckas was absorbed in a race marathon in Sweden, where he reached his most important career goal—Olympic slalom and giant slalom qualification standards.
Isabella Tobias shed tears of joy this week in Lithuania, but she is not the only winter sports athlete to fulfill her Olympic dream. Alpine skier Ieva Januškevičiutė for a long time didn’t believe that one day she would become an Olympian. However, when the opportunity presented itself, the 19-year-old decided to put aside her university studies, and grab the bull by the horns.
“When I was little, I dreamt about the Olympics, but only very superficially. It seemed that it simply wasn’t realistic. But now I am very happy to think that my childhood dream will become a reality,” said Januškevičiūtė. Hers is the latest name to be added to the Lithuanian Olympic team list to travel to Sochi next year. She has been working toward an Olympic birth for two seasons. In order to qualify, Januškevičiūtė had to score five results under 140 FIS (International Ski Federation) points. Penalty points are applied according to the difference in time from the race leader.
The Lithuanian has already earned the right to start the slalom competition in Sochi, but she does not intend to be satisfied with that. Until the end of the Olympic selection period for alpine skiing January 20, Januškevičiutė will take part in competitions held in Sweden, Italy, and Slovakia in order to qualify for the Olympic giant slalom event.
According to the Lithuanian skier, earning the right to test her skills against alpine skiing stars like Lindsey Vonn, Tina Maze, and Maria Hoefl-Riesch, will be a double victory because so far no female Lithuanian skier has managed to qualify for the Olympic games. And even more so, because the Vilnius resident spent her childhood not on the slopes of the Alps, but making turns on Liepkalnis ski hill, where it only takes a few seconds to ski from the top to the bottom.
Ieva Januškevičiūtė was in a good mood during the winter holidays. The 18-year-old recently achieved the best FIS result of any female Lithuanian alpine skier at competitions in Italy. During FIS races held at the mountain resort of Speikboden, the Lithuanian took 19th place in the Slalom, with a result of 104.7 FIS points—points are calculated by time lost to the winning skier, the smaller the difference, the lower the score. No female Lithuanian alpine skier has ever achieved such a low result.
Up until that race, Januškevičiūtė’s best FIS result was 134.03. It was achieved in Slalom races last February held in the Czech republic.
Januškevičiūtė’s two runs in Speikboden had a combined time of 1:31.00. The winning time of 20-year-old Austrian Valentina Fankauser was 1:20.39. Forty-nine skiers started the race, only 23 finished.
A week in the Alps, a few days at home, and back to the mountains. That’s the kind of rhythm Lithuania’s alpine skiers are living this year, moving between training camps.
Lithuanian national team members Karolis Janulionis and Aivaras Tumas were training in Kaprun, Austria, with coach Audrius Santackas and other Ski Club Snow Bees members Oct. 27 – Nov. 5. At the same time, in Hintertux, another Austrian glacier, Anžela and Vytautas Aleksandravičius were working with the young members of their club, Alpiu Aidas—it was the club’s second camp in Austria this fall. On Friday, Lithuanian team members will be on their way back to Kaprun to participate in the European Ski Federation’s fall camp.
The most important races this season for Lithuania’s skiers will be the country’s national championships in Italy Jan. 12 – 19, the European Youth Olympic Festival in Romania in February, and the World Alpine Ski Championships in Solden, Austria, held also at the beginning of February. There will also be several junior/senior and children’s International Ski Federation (FIS) races.
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.
In Ignalina, where the Žalgiris Winter Games alpine ski race was held, Milkus joked that he was born too early, and was unable to get such prices as a young athlete.
The Žalgiriada is a traditional workers’ sports festival for participants over 21 years of age. In order not to exclude young skiers, the Lithuanian Ski Federation traditionally organized events for younger athletes. These races are usually sponsored by equipment distributors, so that the talented medal and diploma winners also receive an impressive array of useful prizes.
This time youth at Lithuanian winter sports center in Ignalina competed in the Leki Cup. There was no less intrigue and competition here than in the Žalgiriada—the boys race attracted the best young alpine skiers.
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.
Kalnų Ereliai veteran and member of the Lithuanian National Ski Team Laura Pamerneckytė of Vilnius is in Austria this week for the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games. The 16-year-old is one of just six athletes on the Lithuanian team (two alpine skiers, two cross-country skiers, and two biathletes). In Innsbruck, she will compete in the Slalom and Giant Slalom competitions. On the eve of her first race, she took a few minutes to catch up with kalnuereliai.com and provide some insight into her experiences at the YOG for our English-speaking fans.
Kalnų Ereliai: What does the experience of participating in YOG mean to you? Laura Pamerneckytė: It means a lot to me, because I was sent here to represent my country. I think all the Lithuanians here are nice and friendly, so other athletes have a good opinion about us. It just feels so great to be a part of YOG.
KE: What is your first impression of the race hill, and what is your plan for the GS/SL races? LP: The hill is really good. Hopefully the snow and weather will be fine too. My plan is simply to finish. I’ll try as hard as I can, but there are a lot of strong girls I just can’t compete with. The most important thing is to participate not to win.
KE: What has been the best part of YOG so far? LP: The best part was opening ceremony! It was a bright and colorful show. It was really interesting despite how cold it was outside. Also in YOG, I have met some really interesting people and made many new friends.
KE: And lastly, what is Yogger? We’ve been hearing a lot about it. LP: Hmm … Yogger is like a flash drive but with some special functions. Whatever activities you participate in—drumming, listening to a lesson about how to prepare for competition, or how to be a chef—you collect points. When you have enough points you can get prizes like sunglasses or a water-bottle. Rokas [Zaveckas] and I both already got [a water-bottle], and we need only one or two more points to get awesome headphones!
Aciu Laura! Sounds like you’re having a great time. Good luck to you, Rokas, and the rest of the Lithuanian team!