Ingrida Ardišauskaitė is a 22-year-old Lithuanian cross-country skier who took part in two world cups and in the last Winter Olympic Games. Despite her young age, and the future seemingly still in front of her, she recently decided to retire. The conditions and the facilities in Lithuania are not good enough in order to grow up as a future champion, she says. She had to travel a lot, and now she feels more relaxed being finally home.
Ingrida Ardišauskaitė
© pliadisfoto.com nuotr.

Her best result in the world cups was the 11th place in the team sprint in 2011. "It will be hard to come back to professional sport," admits Ardišauskaitė in an exclusive interview with the Lithuania Tribune. She has not said her final goodbyes to sport yet.

Ingrida, it is not a secret that winter sports are not so popular in Lithuania. What drew you to this sport?

When I was 10, I was dancing in the school’s basketball support team, my coach suggested me to try skiing. Before that I had never stood on skis or done any winter sports. I agreed and so the story began.

What are the advantages and the disadvantages to be a winter sports athlete?

Well, I think that every sport has its own pluses and minuses. Skiing is a very difficult sport, my coach used to say that is a horse’s sport. In skiing, you are spending a lot of time in open air, so I think this is the biggest advantage of this sport.

During your career you competed in cross-country skiing. What characteristics do you need to have in order to be good in this kind of sport?

It’s an individual sport. You have to be stubborn, to seek the best possible result with whatever means, and most importantly defeat yourself in every match which is one of the most difficult things to do, not to give up and continue to fight for good result through the pain and through the weakness.

You represented Lithuania in the last winter Olympics in Sochi. Describe the feelings that you had when you got the news that you were going to be there?

The competitions themselves weren’t as good as I would have liked them to be. But when I was chosen to represent the country in the games, the feelings were awesome! It is really hard to describe the feelings since it was something really great.

What is the best memory for you from the Olympics?

Everything was very impressive there, since it was the first time that I was competing in the Olympics, everything looked as it supposed to be, maybe even better than I had expected. The organization of the tournament was great, we had excellent tracks, and even the weather was awesome. Of course, one of the greatest moments was the opening ceremony, besides that the Olympic spirit and the grandeur were great.

How important it was for you to be in the Olympic games and to represent Lithuania?

For me it was very important to appear there in my best performance. I knew that I would not take one of the highest places because I am not a high-level athlete to be among the leaders. But it was very important for me to be there and to represent my country and of course to gain experience as an athlete.

Please describe the relations that were in the Olympic team among athletes.

Overall, the atmosphere in the Olympic team was good. I was feeling great and all the other athletes as well. Olympic Games is a great sports festival, so everyone has a great mood and good spirits.

Ingrida Ardišauskaitė
Ingrida Ardišauskaitė
© pliadisfoto.com nuotr.

You finished 67th in the 10km race and 62nd in the women’s sprint. What were your feelings after the races? Were you disappointed with the results?

Of course, I was very disappointed with myself and my results, but also happy that I had the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games. I knew that there would be fierce competition, and as I Said, I didn’t expect to be in the leader’s group.

In your opinion, what should be done in the Lithuanian winter sports in order to have Lithuanian medalists in the next Olympics?

When it comes to skiing, I think that the situation will never change. But now we have good biathlon skier Tomas Kaukėnas whose dream almost became a reality in Sochi, when he came very close to winning a medal. Beside him we also have young but promising speed skater Agnė Sereikaitė who can also achieve some good results in the next games, so I think that we can expect the Lithuanian team to perform better in the next Winter Olympics.

Compared to leading countries in winter sports, does Lithuania have good facilities for its athletes?

Unfortunately, no. We do not have the right facilities or good enough conditions for professional training, we lack qualified coaches or doctors. There are many difficulties for elite athletes to train in Lithuania.

After the Olympics, you decided to retire. What brought you to make this decision?

The decision to retire was made a couple of years before the Olympics. I gave eleven years of my life to sport and I have sacrificed a lot. When I was in sports, I wanted to achieve a lot, but I became tired of it and I decided that in such a situation the best thing for me to do was to retire. When I am out of it now I don't feel everyday pressure and I feel better.

Do you feel sorry today that you decided to retire?

Yes, a little. When I am watching it on TV and following the results, I am thinking that I could still compete, but it would be very hard for me to come back after the break. But generally I am good with the decision to retire and I know that the nostalgia that I am feeling is just a short-term feeling.

But the moment you quit probably still was hard for you.

No, as I said, the decision to retire had been made a couple of years before the Olympic Games. After I retired, I had a feelings that I was finally free and could do what I wanted.

Describe please the day after your retirement. What did you do?

Well, I don’t remember the day after the retirement, but today I'm working a lot, I am studying at university, I also love to do some housework, so when I am home I am always busy with something. I don’t think that I was bored “in the day after” either.

Was it hard for you to change your daily routine and to do without the sport?

I am still doing sports. Of course, not as intensively as when I was in the professional level, but I am still training every day, also I am working with kids in school and it is also a pretty hard job.

What is your life project today?

Well, I am finishing my university studies this year and I’m doing my internship at a school, also I am writing my undergraduate thesis, I am working in two jobs, doing sport and spending time with my dog.

You are studying at the sports university. Will we see you again in sports?

I don’t think I'll be in professional sports, but after finishing my studies, I hope to work with schools and kids and to bring to them my experience. I like it and hope to do it in the future. Sport has been and will always be an important part of my life. So I believe that I will have some connection to it in the future.

Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?

I think that I will be married with kids. As I said I don’t see myself at this point making a comeback to professional sport. I am thinking already about family and planning to have one in the near future.

Summarizing your career, what were the best moments of it?

During the eleven years that I was in sports, I had many great moments. There were some severe moments as well as many joyful moments. I saw a lot of the world, met countless new and interesting people, it was a lot of everything. If I could turn back time and change something, I would not change anything because sports made me who I am today and I like to be who I am.

As one who took part in world cups and in Olympic games, what advice can you give to young athletes who are dreaming to be in those places where you have been?

In order to be a high-level athlete, you have to participate in many tournaments and to compete against top athletes in order to gain more experience. Also, you have to be happy to represent your country. It is a big honour and a responsibility too. You have to work hard if you want to be better. With hard work, everything is possible.

What is going on in the head of a cross-country skier. What are you thinking during the long distance race?

It is hard to say what is on your mind during a long distance race. After you have crossed the finish line, in most cases, you do not remember your thoughts during the race. But when you have a high hill to cross, for example, you are fighting in your head against the physical pain and trying to convince yourself that you need to continue and at the end everything will be fine and that you need to persevere.

What is the hardest thing about being a winter sports athlete in Lithuania?

The most difficult thing is the fact that Lithuania has no conditions to train throughout all year, so we have to travel a lot and most of the year we are far away from home and it is very hard.

Your predictions for Lithuanian team in the next Olympic Games?

It's hard to make any predictions, but I think that the results should be better. I will support our team in the Olympic Games and will hope that they will achieve great results and will win some medals.

In the end, say something to the readers that no one knows about you.

Well, I like to grow nails and to do manicure, but as a professional athlete, it is forbidden for us. So I have secretly grown them and hid them from my coach.

Ingrida Ardišauskaitė
Ingrida Ardišauskaitė
© Asmeninio archyvo nuotr.

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Lithuania spends a lot of money on developing summer Olympic athletes and the national basketball team. And yes, it is great because it brings great results. But isn’t it time to develop winter athletes, too? Creating conditions, such as facilities and training tracks, bringing foreign coaches that will coach the young athletes and will teach local coaches It is not a one-year project. It will require a lot of patience, time and, sure, money. But if Lithuania wants to see a Lithuanian winter Olympic athlete with a medal, it has to be done. Like in Germany, Austria, the USA and other countries where athletes make their nations proud every winter. Not only in the Olympics, but also in world cups and in European championships. Lithuania has many good young athletes who dream of making their nation proud, so it is time to help them do it. As for Ingrida, it will be great to see her ski again and represent Lithuania, but as a former professional athlete, we can be sure that she will contribute to Lithuanian sports in the future in the best way she can.

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