Alytus European Race Walking Cup 2019

“We are aiming to stand on the podium”

Published: February 25, 2019

Brigita Virbalytė has been chosen to be the Lithuanian ambassador at the European Race Walking Cup. 2018 was the most successful year for this participant in the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympic games.

She finished tenth at the World Team Championship by beating her own personal record (1:29:02), and took fourth position at the European Championship by reaching the Lithuanian record (1:27:59).

She finished tenth at the World Team Championship by beating her own personal record (1:29:02), and took fourth position at the European Championship by reaching the Lithuanian record (1:27:59).

A resident of Alytus, B. Virbalytė took the eighth position in the 2017 European Race Walking Cup competition held in Poděbrady. She helped the Lithuanian women’s team to win a historic bronze award at that event.

– The European Race Walking Cup is coming to Lithuania. How important is this for you? This is probably not going to be a regular championship in your career.

– The fact that the European Race Walking Cup competition will take place in my hometown is a great honour for us, and a great honour for Lithuania. This is undoubtedly the largest race walking event in the history of our country. It is very pleasing to see Alytus becoming the cornerstone of race walking. I would also like to see this sport taking place in some of the larger cities of Lithuania, but Alytus is one of the three race walking capitals of our country.

Alytus is a city that is famous for its race walkers. I was discovered by my first trainer in this city, and I achieved my first victories there. I hope that the townspeople will support this beautiful celebration and will come to support the race walkers.

– Alytus has already held race walking festivals 44 times, and you constantly participate in these events. What is the feeling of competing at these events? Can an Alytus event compare with the highest level of race walking competitions abroad?

– A very large number of strong race walkers have participated in the international competitions held in Alytus. I remember myself, as a teenager, seeing a lot of high profile race walking stars taking part in the competitions in Alytus. These competitions were prestigious and they have retained their status. We have welcomed very highly-titled athletes from the furthest countries during the Olympic year; therefore, it is with great joy that we see them travel here.

The requirements for the European Race Walking Cup are higher, so the competition organisers will have to step up and show a little more effort to deliver an impressive event. I believe that the competitions will comply with all of the necessary requirements. It is important to have spectators at such events, as well as ensuring the best conditions for the athletes, so that there would be no distractions that could ruin their concentration prior to the race. The atmosphere is immensely important – I have been to perfectly organised competitions on high level tracks, but there were no spectators, and thus there was no sports atmosphere. Such events are forgettable in my eyes. A lot of European Race Walking Cups have been impressive events and I hope that Alytus will continue this tradition.

– The 2017 European Cup and the 2018 European Championship were great for Lithuanian race walkers. Does this mean that we can have reasonably high expectations for our athletes in Alytus?

– I have cherished the thought of a Lithuanian team winning a medal at the World or European Race Walking Cup championships for a very long time, since we have always had talented race walkers amongst our women athletes. When I was younger I became an addition to the stronger race walkers, now the Vaiciukevičiūtė sisters have been found so we are a strong team. The Poděbrady race was the first competition where I did not allow myself to think about winning a medal. That bronze medal was a happy surprise and was the fulfilment of another dream for me.

I understand that this has created hope and placed a large responsibility on our team. However, the Spanish and Italian teams are very strong in Europe, and there are also 3-4 countries near us in the rankings that can compete with us at the same level. The Spanish and Italian women athletes will be the favourites in the race, since their teams include people who will win individual medals, and we lack such athletes at the present time. In order to be one of the winning medallists, all three of us need to give a great performance, so it will be interesting whether we be able to reach our perfect form on the day of the race. “We are certainly aiming to stand on the awards podium.”