On the highest pedestal
If Lithuanians were asked to choose their most popular sport, it would undoubtedly be basketball. We all feel we are basketball referees and coaches when we watch it live or on television. But that doesn't mean we forget the world famous Lithuanian athletes. We also play ice hockey and run marathons, while one of the world’s strongest and most resilient people lives in our country. Lithuanians climb mountains, compete in the Dakar Rally and search for untrodden paths in the Antarctic, and the country produces “goldfish” who win medals at the Olympics and in various swimming pools worldwide.
One of the strongest man of all time lives here in Lithuania. Žydrūnas Savickas, known to the world as “Big Z”, has broken more than 20 world records. Over the course of his career, since he participated in his first strength competition at the age of 16, few people have had the chance to win against him. Since 2003, Žydrūnas has won 13 world championships and 8 Arnold Strongman Classic tournaments.
“Savickas is the best strength athlete of our time, and someone with a large and kind heart. No matter how hard the competition, the giant never ceases to smile and always finds some time to talk to the fans afterwards.” Ilkka Kinnunen, director of the Strongman Champions League
Lithuanians could not possibly imagine basketball without Arvydas Sabonis, in the same way that they cannot imagine their own lives without basketball. He is an Olympic and world champion, and president of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation. Tall, with an exceptional sense of humour, he is a Lithuanian whose talent on the basketball court has helped spread news of our country throughout the world. The number that has accompanied Arvydas Sabonis throughout his life is 11: he wore a top with this number on it when he played for Žalgiris (Kaunas) in the Lithuanian and Soviet championships back in the day, as well as for Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA. In 2010, the legendary Lithuanian sportsman was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame and a year later, his name was added to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Visitors to the nba.com website have selected him as the foreign citizen who has had the biggest influence on the NBA.
“If one were to line up all basketball players according to their playing ability, Arvydas Sabonis would be at the very front.” Serbian basketball legend Vlade Divac
Lithuania loves her, and she graces Lithuania with her victories. No matter where she is, Olympic, world and European swimming champion Rūta Meilutytė can invariably be seen waving the Lithuanian flag. She even paints her nails yellow, green and red. She has entered the country’s sporting history as the first female swimmer in independent Lithuania to win an Olympic gold medal. The European Olympic Committees named Rūta the best young athlete in the Old World in 2012 and 2013. In 2018, the documentary “Rūta”, directed by Ronaldas Buožis and Rokas Darulis, was released in movie theatres. The film candidly tells the story of one of the world’s finest female swimmers and the most beloved female athlete in Lithuania.
“In London, Rūta Meilutytė has become a new name, one that must be learned by the entire world.” Swimming World Magazine
He is the person who hoisted the Lithuanian flag on the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, Everest, and the first mountain climber from the Baltic states to have reached it. Vladas Vitkauskas has climbed the tallest summits on all the six continents. Having become a mountaineering champion for the Baltic States and founded the Lithuanian Mountaineering Association, he has organised numerous challenging mountain expeditions. These days, he shares his experiences at various seminars and lectures. “I have never blamed the mountains for the unfortunate accidents that happen there. I could see that it was us who brought misfortune through our ignorant behaviour and desires, especially the desire to triumph over the mountains,” says Vladas Vitkauskas about his passion.
"The world is great, and man is able to match him. Thanks to Vladas Vitkauskas for this testimony." Vytautas Landsbergis
A long-distance runner and winner of the world “ultra-trail” championship, this is a man who seems to be made of steel. In 2015, former military officer Gediminas Grinius broke the world speed record for distances over 100 kilometres. He runs through deserts and along roads, around the summit of Mont Blanc and is fighting for his place among the world’s elite ultra-marathon runners. The incredible results he has achieved on the race track, in the mountains and off the track have not precluded him from being extremely modest. He does not attribute undue significance to his achievements, and is happy sharing his experiences and training methods with others. “Once you realise what you can do, you will be able to run that distance – after all, human potential is unlimited,” says the champion.
“Gediminas does not talk too much and does not give many instructions. He shares his experience, engages in quiet observation, smiles frequently and somehow manages to persuade your body that you can do a lot more than you had thought.” Mountaineer and marathon runner Danguolė Bičkūnienė