If much of the world is obsessed with football, Lithuania’s sport is basketball. Our country’s tall players are stars at home, on prestigious European teams and in America’s NBA. But Lithuania’s record of participating in international sports goes back farther: since the end of the First World War our athletes have participated in the Olympics and challenged the world’s best in various sports events and venues.
The symbol of our country’s Olympic team is an oak leaf. Worshipped by Lithuanians from ancient times, the oak tree is a powerful symbol of strength that captures our country’s determination to fight to the end and win. Lithuania sent its first Olympic team to the 1924 Paris games. Athletes representing independent Lithuania have participated in 24 Olympic Games and have brought home 68 medals.
Basketball – our second religion
From 1921, when basketball reached Lithuania, and the first official game took place in Kaunas in 1922, most of our young boys dream of becoming famous basketball players – like Arvydas Sabonis, current president of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation; Šarūnas Marčiulionis, who was one of the first Europeans to play in the NBA; or today’s Lithuanian basketball legends Jonas Valančiūnas and Domantas Sabonis. The Lithuanian basketball team has won the European Championship three times and has the same number of Olympic silver medals. The team captured Olympic bronze three summer games in a row and has won the World Basketball Championship once.
Medals from stadiums and swimming pools
There are more than 130,000 professional athletes in Lithuania and more than 2500 trainers. Lithuanians are ambitious in the water, on cycling routes, in track and field stadiums, in boxing and martial arts rings, on ocean waves, snow, sand and grass. Olympic and other medals have been won for Lithuania by swimmer Rūta Meilutytė, champion strongman Žydrūnas Savickas, cyclist Simona Krupeckaitė, discus thrower Aurimas Gudžius, ultra runner Gediminas Grinius, and many others.
Photo credits: Andrius Aleksandravičius