Alytus European Race Walking Cup 2019

Race Walking in Lithuania

Published: February 25, 2019

History Of Race Walking in Lithuania

13 July 1919 was the day when the first race walking competitions took place during the Lithuanian Sports Union Celebration day. Scouts walked an 860 metre distance in 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

1922 The second Lithuanian Track-and-Field Championships programme already included a 1 mile walking race. Kęstutis Bulota was the winner of this race (9 min., 17.6 sec.). The Lithuanian Championships included race walking in 1926 and 1927, and race walking featured at the World Lithuanian Congress sports programme held in Kaunas in 1935. However, race walking was not included in the country’s championships prior to 1947. The first results were very weak and it was only in 1951, when Antanas Mikėnas appeared on the race walking track, that the prestige of Lithuanian race walking began to increase rapidly. Antanas Mikėnas was an exceptional figure in Lithuanian sports. He managed to surpass the Lithuanian records 34 times, and the USSR records 3 times, and he became the Lithuanian champion a total of 12 times. During the Melbourne Olympic games in 1956, he was the first of the Lithuanian track-and-field athletes to win a silver medal in a 20 km race walking competition.

In 1957, A. Mikėnas became the 20 km race walk competition gold medallist at the III World’s Youth Games in Moscow.

In 1959, Antanas Mikėnas set the Lithuanian 20,000 metre race walk record (1:28:22.2), which was unbeaten for the next 20 years. In 1968, Algirdas Lebedžius, a resident of Vilnius and a prize-winner at multiple child and youth championships in the USSR, participated in the European Youth Championship as a part of the USSR team, and won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metre race walk contest (45:31.6). This was the highest achievement for a young race walker from Lithuania during the whole history of track-and-field in the country.

In 1969, Vytautas Žurnia, a resident of Kaunas, improved the world 10,000 metre indoor race walk record (42:40.00) at the USSR Armed Forces Championship in Moscow.

In 1977, Alvydas Baltaduonis became the first of the Lithuanian race walkers (and now, the only one) to be the winner of the USSR 50 km race championship in Moscow (4:09.17).

Algirdas Šakalys was a talented race walker who also influenced the development of race walking in Lithuania quite a bit. He improved the Lithuanian records 17 times, and was nominated as the country’s champion and the USSR’s vice-champion 16 times. After that, A. Šakalys took leave from active participation in the sport and started working as a trainer. In 1983, his talented student Valdas Kazlauskas was the first Lithuanian race walker to surpass the European 20,000 m race walking record (1:20.37) at the “Dinamo” stadium in Moscow, where a total of four Lithuanian records were beaten, with the A. Mikėnas 20,000 metre race walking record amongst them.

In 1980, women started participating in race walking competitions, and as early as 1986, Sada Eidikytė won the gold medal at the Sochi USSR Youth Winter Championship and set a new USSR youth 5 km race walking record (21:57.0)

In 1987, V. Kazlauskas improved the world 15,000 metre record (1:00:3.9) at the Lithuanian indoor championships in Kaunas. He won the silver medal at the USSR Winter Championships and set a new Lithuanian 20 km race walking record (1:21:00.0), earning him the right to participate in the World Race Walking Cup team competition in New York, where he was the first Lithuanian race walker to win the world cup(together with the USSR team, of course). He repeated this achievement in 1989 in Spain.

In 1989, Lithuanians participated in race walking competitions outside of the USSR area limits for the first time in Hildesheim, Germany, where they showed great results. The city street race was won by V. Kazlauskas, who managed to surpass the world 10 km race walking record (38:34.0). The European 5 km race walking record was beaten by Sada Eidikytė (20:53.0), who has improved the world 3000 metre race walk record on June 25 in the Finnish city of Lapinlahti (12:09.91).

In 1989, the Lithuanian Race Walking Association was created; and in 1990, the first publication of the Association, “Lithuanian race walker”, was issued.

In 1992, Lithuanian race walkers participated in the European Indoor Championship for the first time. S. Eidikytė finished sixth and improved the country’s 3000 metre race walking record (12:13.67). The first race walker of the independent Lithuania, Viktoras Meškauskas, defended the honour of his country at the Barcelona Olympic games where he finished 26th in the 20 km race.

In 1994, Kęstutis Jezepčikas established the first race walking club in Druskininkai, Lithuania.

In 1996, three race walkers from Lithuania participated in the Barcelona Olympic games, but they had poor results.

In 1998, female race walkers from the Alytus “Daisotra” sports club participated in the European Race Walking Cup championship and took second place. The same position was taken by “Daisotra” in 1999.

In 2000, three race walkers represented Lithuania at the Sydney Olympic games. A new high of sixteenth place was taken by Kristina Saltanovič (1:34.24). K. Saltanovič walked 20,000 metres at the Kaunas stadium (August 02) in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 23.67 seconds, and claimed the new world record.

In 2001, at the World Youth Championship in Debrecen (Hungary), Brigita Virbalytė finished 5th in the 5000 metre race walk (23:59.84).

2002 was a most important year for Lithuanian race walker wins – Kristina Saltanovič won 7th place at the European Championship in Munich and set a new Lithuanian 20 km race walking record (1:30.44).

In 2003, B. Virbalytė again showed great results at the European Youth Championship, where she managed to take the 4th position (48:00.26) in the 10,000 metre race, and K. Saltanovič finished 14th at the World Championship (1:32.13).

2004 was the year when four Lithuanian race walkers gained the right to participate in the Athens Olympic games. The highest place (19th) in the 20 km race walk competition was taken by K. Saltanovič (1:32.22).

In 2005, our women’s team has earned an honourable 5th place in the 20 km distance of the team competition at the VI European Race Walking Cup. K. Saltanovič also achieved a high 12th place at the World Track-and-Field Championship held in Helsinki, in the 20 km race walking distance (1:31.23).

At the 2007 World Track-and-Field Championship in Japan, Donatas Škarnulis took a high 12th place in the 50 km distance (3:59.48). N. Aidietytė finished 5th in the 20 km race walking at the World Student University Championship.

In 2008, our women’s team scored a high fourth place in the World Race Walking Cup team competition, while Sonata Milušauskaitė scored 12th in the individual 20 km competition and beat the country’s previous record (1:30.35). Six race walkers participated in the Beijing Olympic games. The best result was achieved by Sonata Milušauskaitė, who scored 15th with a new national record (1:30.26).

In 2009, the VIII European Race Walking Cup competition took place in France (Metze). Our race walkers showed good results in the individual competitions. Donatas Škarnulis finished 7th in the 50 km race (3:53.43), while Kristina Saltanovič was the first Lithuanian race walker to win a bronze medal during the whole history of the sport. K. Saltanovič finished the 20 km race in 1:34.17, and was ranked 9th in the 2009 World’s Best Race Walkers list.

In 2010, K. Saltanovič repeatedly scored 7th at the 20 km distance, and T. Šuškevičius has scored 9th at the 50 km distance at the XX European Championship in Barcelona. The Lithuanian race walkers also won an inter-state match with Sweden and Latvia.

In 2011, K. Saltanovič finished 8th in the 20 km distance race (1:31.40) at the World Championship in South Korea (Daegu), while M. Žiūkas finished 6th in the 20 km distance race at the University Championship in China. In addition, K. Saltanovič was ranked as one of the Top Ten Race Walkers in the World for the second year in a row.

In 2014, the “Alytus-2014” international race walking festival was organised for the 40th time. Živilė Vaiciukevičiūtė scored 12th in the 10,000 m race walking distance at the Junior Championship and set a new junior record for Lithuania (47:19.80), while Brigita Virbalytė improved the national record in Katowice (Poland) in the 10 km race walk distance (43.13).

In 2015, Brigita Virbalytė was the first amongst the race walkers of this country to score an admirable 7th place in the 20 km race walking competition at the World Championship in Beijing, improving the national record (1:30.20). Živilė Vaiciukevičiūtė secured 8th position in the 10,000 metre race walking competition at the European Youth Championship in Sweden and set a new national record for 19 year old athletes (46:13.23).

The US magazine “Track-and-Field News” announced Brigita Virbalyte to be 8th in the World’s Top Ranking of Race Walkers, and she was the first Lithuanian race walker to be chosen as the best track-and-field athlete from Lithuania in 2015.

In 2016, a large number of race walkers (seven) participated in the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The highest place (26th) was taken by M. Žiūkas.

The 1st World Race Walking team championship took place in Italy, where our women’s team scored a high 9th place.

In 2017, the 43rd “Alytus-2017” international race walk festival took place in Alytus, Druskininkai hosted the 25th “Druskininkai-2017” international race walk competition and Birštonas held the 31st Antanas Mikėnas Cup tournament.

Five race walkers participated in the World Championship in London, where the highest (sixteenth) place was taken by B. Virbalytė in the 20 km distance race walking competition.

The Czech city of Poděbrady hosted the XII European Race Walking Cup team competition, where our national women’s team consisting of B. Virbalytė, Ž. and M. Vaiciukevičiūtė, and K. Saltanovič managed to win bronze medals for the first time in the history of race walking in Lithuania. M. Žiūkas finished fifth in the individual 20 km competition (1:21.38).

The first independent Lithuania race walker, Živilė Vaiciukevičiūtė, won a bronze medal in the 20 km race walking competition (1:32.21) in Bydgoszcz (POL) (for competitors under 23 years).

In 2018, the Lithuanian race walking community was pleasantly surprised when Brigita Virbalytė won 4th place at the European Championship in Berlin (August 11) and established a new and very high-level Lithuanian national 20 km race walking record (1:27.59). Živilė Vaiciukevičiūtė managed to provide us with an equally pleasant surprise by taking 5th place and setting a new Lithuanian national youth U23 20 km race walking record with a time of 1:28.07.

Assoc. Prof Dr Juozas Genevičius