Today we look back on Day 11 of the Sydney Olympics, a historic day as American basketballer Vince Carter landed one of the most iconic dunks while Australian 400m runner Cathy Freeman become the first Olympic flame lighter to win a Gold medal.
Freeman’s triumph was a historic victory before 112,524 people; some say it was the ultimate by any athlete of the Indigenous-Australian origin.
However few trivia buffs can remember the athlete which stood on the podium prior to Freeman’s historic win.
Enter Virgilijus Alekna; the 202cm big friendly giant would represent Lithuania in the discus final on this night in 2000.
The 28-year-old initially qualified with the longest throw (67.10m) of Group B qualification, a period which would see 38-year-old Vaclavas Kidykas depart from his third and final Olympics (58.96m).
Sadly, the qualification round would not be one for 1992 Gold medallist Romas Ubartas to remember either as the 40-year-old from Panevėžys would step over the line in his final attempt.
On this day, Alekna would be joined in the favourites by 1996 Olympic Gold medallist Lars Riedel (Germany), reigning African Champion Frantz Kruger (South Africa) and reigning World Champion Anthony Washington (USA).
However Alekna’s first attempt of 58.55m would see him ranked 9th of the competitors, a ranking which would have been lowered if not for fouls recorded by Washington, Jürgen Schult (Germany) and Dmitriy Shevchenko (Russia).
Thankfully, the Lithuanian would bounce back in the second round to record a distance of 67.54m squeezing him into the top three between Kruger and Riedel who both fouled on their second attempts.
Alekna then gained the lead in the final round (68.73m), the only throw to travel further from this point would be his fifth (69.30m) therefore granting his nation what would be the first of back to back medals.
Unfortunately for Alekna, he would miss out on snatching Riedel’s Olympic record by 10cm as the German accepted the Silver medal.
Kruger slipped to the bottom step of the podium while Washington finished dead last in the final.
Fittingly, Alekna was crowned as Lithuania’s Athlete of the year for 2000 after his efforts in what would be his second of five Olympic tournaments.
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