Discus thrower Mykolas Alekna is only 20 years old, but this year he has already become a European champion, a world vice-champion, and finally, the best Lithuanian male athlete of 2022.
During the Lithuanian Sports Awards ceremony, Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, Olympic champion, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the President of the National Olympic Committee of Lithuania (NOCL), presented the trophy of the country’s best athlete to Mykolas Alekna.
Young age is no barrier
Mykolas Alekna’s leap into the world’s elite is truly impressive. In 2021, Alekna became European Junior Champion and at the World U20 Championships he broke the record for the event, throwing the 1.75 kg discus 69.81 m.
In 2022, he threw the men’s discus (2 kg) over 69 m. He broke this mark at this year’s World Championships (69.27 m) and his 69.78 m is a new European Championships record. Back in 2020, Alekna was only fifth at the Lithuanian Championships with 53.96 m.
“I really didn’t expect to achieve such results so quickly. I’m very happy that at this age I can already be competitive with all the competitors. I’m proud of such a relatively fast growth,” said Mykolas.
These results are not accidental. The athlete says it is a result of hard work and patience. A big tribute goes to his coach Mantas Jusis and his sporty family.
“All athletes work hard, so you always have to stay highly motivated. The experience shared by my dad and an experienced coach has helped me achieve high results. I was able to learn from their mistakes and not my own. This is what led to the rapid jump of the results, because I didn’t have to make my own mistakes,” Alekna pointed out.
With the right attitude, a young age brings a long-lasting hunger for victory.
“I’m hungry and I want those medals. They will never be enough, especially when I’ve had felt that taste. That hunger doesn’t go away and only grows. That is one of the advantages at a young age,” he said.
Mykolas Alekna grew up in a very sporty family – his dad Virgilijus Alekna is a two-time Olympic champion and has been named Lithuania’s best athlete four times. Interestingly, Virgilijus Alekna received his first such award at the age of 28. Mykolas’s older brother Martynas Alekna is also a discus thrower, and their sister is a track-and-field athlete too.
Mykolas emphasises that his parents never forced him to choose discus throw, but the genes did their part.
“I had the freedom to choose what I wanted. However, at some point of time the choice of sports became very limited. We lived in the suburbs, so it wasn’t easy to go to different sports clubs. My brother used to throw the discus, so I decided to join him. I have always had an interest in discus throw, so I was able to tame this sport quickly,” said Alekna.
It goes without saying that Virgilijus Alekna, who has won many titles, has also contributed to such a beautiful and fast career of his son.
“My dad was always consistent. He has shown by his example that steady work brings results. He always taught me that if you start something, you cannot stop. You have to finish the job,” the athlete commented on the values instilled by his family.
Improving across the Atlantic
Mykolas Alekna moved to the USA more than a year ago, when he decided to combine sport and education. The discus thrower, who is studying at the University of California, Berkeley, is working here with his new coach Mohamad Saatara.
“It’s my second year in the US now, and I’m getting used to the system and the schedule. Everything is going very well here. The biggest advantage is the possibility to combine sport with high-level education. A good education is so important for me. My parents instilled these values in me,” said Alekna.
Although he now spends most of the year across the Atlantic, he is in constant contact with Mantas Jusis, who works in Lithuania. Alekna said that when choosing a coach in the USA, it was very important that the new methodology was related to the one used in Lithuania.
“I’m happy that I found such a coach. Saatara and Jusis get along very well and work together. I think that’s why we have these good results,” said the discus thrower.
Alekna hopes that he will be able to continue to improve. The most important thing is that injuries do not become an obstacle. In discus throw, 70 m is the grandmaster’s limit which is reached by only a few athletes. Naturally, it will not be possible to improve personal bests at the same pace as in recent years.
“I pay a lot of attention to injury prevention. If I manage to avoid injuries and train as hard as I do, there will be even more titles in the future,” said Alekna. “Yes, the progress is very fast, but it has to slow down at some point. Throwing over 70 m is very difficult, but now I’m concentrating on stability. I want to be stable in the most important competitions as it is consistency that brings medals.”
Mykolas’s dad Virgilijus Alekna set a career best of 73.88 m in 2000, just 20 cm shy of the world record held by German Jürgen Schult. Mykolas’s age and improvement make it possible to expect very high results in the future and, of course, his participation in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but the athlete himself does not want to chase the hard-to-perceive results yet.
“I have never tried and do not plan to try to find special conditions for breaking the world record. If I could break it sometime in the distant future, it would be great, but that is not my main goal. My main goal is to enjoy the sport and fight for every title,” said the best Lithuanian male athlete.