On Saturday, biathlete Vytautas Strolia took an épée, kayaker Mindaugas Maldonis tried his hand at biathlon shooting, and runner Eglė Balčiūnaitė tried archery. Not only the Olympic athletes, but also thousands of Panevėžys residents and guests had this opportunity on Saturday at the Olympic Day celebration held in the capital of Aukštaitija Region.
“It’s fun! Lots of people, better weather than we expected, great emotions,” said Olympic kayaker Maldonis after the celebration.
The Olympic Day returned to Panevėžys after a five-year break. During the celebration, everyone could try over a hundred different sports and entertainment activities, compete in various competitions, meet and talk to the Olympic athletes.
“It’s great to be back in Panevėžys, which welcomed us in the renewed Senvagė. This is a special occasion for the Olympic Movement, celebrated in different ways all over the world. I’m glad that ten years ago we decided to travel through Lithuanian cities with the Olympic Day and to create a great celebration together,” said Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, Olympic champion and President of the National Olympic Committee of Lithuania (LNOC).
“The event was a great success and I hope that we have raised the Olympic Day bar even higher after this day. I’m delighted with the large number of participants – it’s great that so many people decided to spend this weekend in Panevėžys. I would like to thank the organisers and participants for a great celebration, and I wish Panevėžys to light the Olympic Day torch in our city for the third time shortly,” said Rytis Račkauskas, Mayor of Panevėžys.
Lighting the flame of celebration
People started gathering in Senvagė early on Saturday morning. There was plenty to see, and traditionally the celebration started with a symbolic Olympic Day torch relay. The relay was started in front of the city council by Panevėžys Lietkabelis basketball player Gabrielius Maldūnas and FK Panevėžys football player Linas Klimavičius.
Soon after, they passed the torch to Olympic swimmer Darius Grigalionis and boxer Vitalijus Karpačiauskas, who in turn passed it to Olympic cyclists Simona Krupeckaitė and Olivija Baleišytė. The torch was brought to the stage in Laisvės Square by the family of cyclists Miglė and Vasilijus Lendel, who ran together with their little son.
They lit the flame together with Mayor Račkauskas and LNOC President Gudzinevičiūtė. “It’s a great honour to carry the torch of the celebration, especially when it takes place in my city,” said Olympic athlete Miglė Marozaitė.
Olympic athletes were actively involved
More than 30 Olympic athletes took part in the Olympic Day celebration in Panevėžys. The athletes not only interacted with the participants, but also tried out many of the activities of the celebration themselves. Swimmer Danas Rapšys played baseball, and his colleague Andrius Šidlauskas paddled a canoe simulator. Canoeist Henrikas Žustautas tried his hand at the Paralympic shot put, while kayaker Edvinas Ramanauskas and cyclist Olivija Baleišytė climbed into the boxing ring.
“It’s great to have such a celebration in my hometown. It’s even strange to see so many people, because usually there are not so many. It’s nice that people are interested in sports, trying out the events, bringing their children. I talked to my godson, and he said he tried everything and wants to attend everything,” laughed Danas.
The swimmer arrived at the Olympic Day celebration right after the morning training session.
“The celebration was spectacular! I didn’t expect so many people to turn up, and I hadn’t even heard about some of the competitions here,” said Eglė Balčiūnaitė.
She took part in the 10 km run and came 5th in the women’s group. Biathlete Vytautas Strolia came to the celebration with his wife and daughter.
“I’m very happy that I was able to come with my family, it was fun to try fencing myself, and I did quite well. My wife and I were just talking about how this is a great opportunity for children to see different sports, to try and maybe start attending,” said Vytautas.
Famous athletes in the competition
The Olympic Day brought together sports enthusiasts from all over Lithuania to participate in various sports competitions. During the event, participants competed in stand up paddle boarding, LTeam Rogaining, 200 m, 400 m and 600 m swimming, 3×3 basketball, the Lithuanian Olympic Mile, children’s 500 m, 5 km and 10 km running, breaking, and cornhole competitions. Almost 2 000 participants accepted the challenges.
One of the biggest 10 km races was also attended by a number of Olympic athletes – rower Dominykas Jančionis came third, biathlete Tomas Kaukėnas finished fifth, and skier Tautvydas Strolia, rower Saulius Ritteris, and biathlete Karolis Dombrovskis also competed in the running events. Track-and-field athlete Eglė Balčiūnaitė finished fifth in the women’s overall standings.
Ukrainian Vitaly Kuznetsov became the champion of the 10 km race, with Jaunius Strazdas finishing second and Olympic athlete Dominykas Jančionis third. Vaidas Ramanauskas was the fastest in the 5 km race, with Kristis Stankevičius second and Radoslav Lajevski third.
Amelija Murėnaitė won the 600 m and 200 m swimming events. Dargilė Savičiauskaitė was the fastest in the 400 m race. Dainius Sokolovas was unbeatable in the SUP event.
The ZIP FM 3×3 basketball tournament was won by BC Jūsų Panevėžys, who defeated JP.lt 11:8 in the final. The third place went to PatriotsX3 who defeated Edrimita 14:12.
Darius Baranauskas won the men’s OCR 100 m extreme steeplechase event. Dainius Liutkus came second, Valerijus Ščerbo third. In the women’s group, Ieva Želvytė was the strongest, Sandra Liutkė was second, and Neringa Griškienė was third on the podium.
Fans of orienteering competed in the LTeam Rogaining competition. Using a map and running or cycling, participants had to search for hidden checkpoints within a certain time limit. In the amateur team race (2 hours), the strongest performers were Daina and Karlis Stonka from Latvia (Team A). In the pupils’ group (2 hours), the winners were Vitas Subatkis and Domas Juknevičius. In the men’s group (4 hours), Darius Kriukas and Simonas Narvydas from Perkūno mohikanai finished first. In the women’s group (4 hours), Inga Žvinytė and Živilė Kanapkienė, representing the team Klajūno damos, were the strongest. In the mixed group (4 hours), Audrius Rudys and Viktorija Kalvelytė from Baltų lokys won the competition.
In the team cycling competition in the amateur group, Arūnas Znotinas and Gintautas Kėras (Aurora-Telšiai) were the winners. In the men’s group (4 hours), Vitalijus Petrukus and Regimantas Kavaliauskas (OK Telšiai) were the fastest. In the women’s group (4 hours), Vaida Reinartaitė (Ride and drink champagne) was the strongest. In the mixed group (4 hours), Agnė Musajevaitė and Rokas Mickevičius (TACO) from Vilnius won the competition.
The Trenkturas 7 km and 18 km hikes in the beautiful surroundings of Panevėžys also attracted exceptional attention and involvement, with more than 450 enthusiasts participating.
Handing the flag over to Šiauliai
The sports and entertainment celebration in Panevėžys was organised by the LNOC, the Lithuanian Olympic Fund and Panevėžys City Municipality. The guests of the celebration could try out various sports, talk to professional athletes, meet the Olympic athletes, engage in games and tournaments, as well as join educational and Olympic education events. More than 10 000 prizes were given away as motivational gifts for active participation.
Sports federations and clubs were involved in the event; not only summer but also winter Olympic and non-Olympic sports were presented to the participants, and the Lithuanian Paralympic Committee has also organised individual activities.
Next year, the Olympic Day will be held in Šiauliai. On Saturday, after the awards ceremony on the stage in Laisvės Square, Panevėžys Mayor Rytis Račkauskas symbolically handed over the Olympic Day flag to Šiauliai Municipality, and it was received by Gintaras Jasiūnas, the Head of the Sports Department.
The celebration culminated in a concert by Monika Linkytė and her band, followed by a screening of the film Life in 24 Hours.