China Captain Yao Ming
Lithuanian fans with the tri-colour flag triumphant after Lithuania
beat Australia 100-85 in the Mens Basketball
In Athens 2004, Lithuania had representatives in a wide variety of events, including athletics, pentathlon, heptathlon, walking, running, marathon, basketball, boxing, flat-water kayaking, cycling, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling. Highlights were the Mens basketball team, as the Lithuanians won every match in the preliminaries, including beating the US, before going on to lose the semi-final to Italy and the Bronze match to the US - which was a blessing in disguise to the Lithuanian government, as it ended up saving in total over Aust $2 million, which they had promised to medal winners.
After 3-point gunner Šarūnas Jasikevičius scored 28 points beating the US 94-90, he was asked why he hasnt been snatched up by NBA scouts (Americas National Basketball Association). Šarūnas said its because hes a slow, fat white guy and the international scouts, who come to see him, dont have much pull. He speaks pretty good English, having attended the University of Maryland. Back in Lithuania, fireworks thundered above Vilnius and other towns, as cheering crowds filled the streets, singing and waving flags in anticipation of what could be.
It didnt help when USA players left the court without shaking hands with the Argentinean winners, but neither did the Lithuanians when they lost to the Italians. How do you shake hands with opponents who are deliriously piled up on top of each other in centre court?
Alvydas Duonėla & Egidijus Balčiūnas in the 500m kayaking pairs
In the 500m kayaking pairs, Alvydas Duonėla and Egidijus Balčiūnas were 1st in the semifinals and ended up 7th in the finals. Shooting had hundreds of competitors and Daina Gudžinevičiute ended up 14th. We didnt do so badly in boxing either: Jaroslavas Jakšto reached 5th place in the +91 kg.
Heavyweight lifter from Klaipeda, Ramunas Vyšniauskas, lifted 187.5 kg and 225.5 kg, reaching 6th place. He said afterwards, that if he would have lifted as much as he did back in Lithuania, he would now be the Olympic vice-champion - but it is, as it is!
One of the Lithuanian competitors, Raimondas Turla, who competed in the 200 and 400 metres, was also a candidate in the October 10 Lithuanian Parliamentary elections.
Gold Medal for
Virgilijus Alekna in
the Discus Throw
A happy Austra Skujytė
with her Silver in the
Silver Heptathlon winner, Austra Skujytė is a 62" tall student, who spends half her time studying in the US and half her time in Lithuania. She has been a scholarship holder with the Olympic Solidarity program since August 2002. Shes competed in World Heptathlon and Pentathlon championships. Her funniest moment in athletics was at the 2000 World Indoor Championships, when she crossed the finishing line of the 800m on all fours!
Andrejus Zadneprovskis, the Pentathlon Silver winner, was born in Kaliningrad. He started training in Lithuania at age 16, supported by his pentathlete father. Andrejus holds heaps of Medals at Olympic Games and World Championships and came 7th in Sydney in the Individual event. He is single, a lawyer, 59" tall and has a nickname Mažas (shortie).
off his Silver
Austra Skujyte and Virgilijus Alekna swimming in
flowers on their return to Vilnius Airport
In past years, the Olympics used to be a competition between amateurs for just the glory of winning. But in the 1980s, this ideal collapsed when it became obvious that many athletes were receiving large sums of money on the sly. So instead of enforcing the rules prohibiting payments, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) abolished the rule that forbade athletes to receive money, opening up the floodgates for huge sums of money to slosh around with everyone - from trainers, lackeys, hangers-on and the Mafia - wanting a cut of the athletes money. The Kazakh Olympic boxing champion Bekzat Sattarkhanov died in a mysterious car accident on New Year's Eve 2000, after winning Gold in the Sydney Games. It is speculated that he didnt want to share his prize. Its sad that the small and poorer countries tend to pay their athletes more than the larger wealthier countries. USA athletes get A$36,000 for gold while Russians get A$72,000 and Lithuanians A$180,000 plus a BMW from the Lithuanian Olympic Committee.
Eurelijus and Mindaugas Žukauskas after their
basketball team beat USA
In total, 28 athletes were banned in Athens for violating anti-doping rules. Two of Greeces top sprinters were banned at the beginning of the Games, while another two Greek baseball players, a Kenyan boxer, a Swiss cyclist, a US 100 metre champion, a Spanish canoe team member and an Irish distance runner were among some of the other athletes who were expelled.
Alekna had said his fiercest rival was Hungarian Robert Fazekas, who is also a world-class hammer thrower and shares a coach with the disgraced Annus. Fazekas had been a modest performer for most of his career until his breakthrough in 2002, when he won the European and World Cup titles.
He was expelled from Athens and banned for two years after he was spotted by officials trying to tamper with his urine sample after the final. An official for the Hungarian Olympic Committee said that Fazekas was at the doping control until 3 am and he just could not give enough. He claimed Fazekas "...was a deeply religious person, who has always had difficulty to produce a sufficient quantity of urine in front of sample collectors." Give him a beer, somebody!