Vytautas Strolia, 22-year-old Lithuanian winter sports athlete who took part in the Sochi Olympic Games as a cross-country skier, decided recently to switch to biathlon. "I can see my future there more than in cross-country," he admits, adding that his "shooting is getting better and better".
Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Andrey Ivanov

His first debut in the world cup happened on 21 January 2012, and once again in 2013. His best result in world cups was placing 61st.

At the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Strolia ranked 67th in the skiathlon, 70th in sprint and 70th in 15km freestyle race.

After taking part with the Lithuanian team in the world cup in the Czech Republic, Vytautas Strolia was able to speak exclusively to the Lithuania Tribune about his career, the Olympic games and the future of winter sports in Lithuania.

The last world cup was quite unsuccessful for the Lithuanian team, which took the last place, but Strolia is sure that the future is in front of the team. "We are still a young team. We have a lot of talents who may achieve good results in the future. The tournament itself was good with a lot of emotions and good hosting. But unfortunately we failed to get better results this time," said Strolia.

How did it all begin? Why winter sport?

It began when I was 10, I tried to ski and I liked it and after a few years I became better and better and I started to take part in competitions and to get good results. Since then I've been doing this.

Your debut at the world cup was three years ago when you were a young athlete of 19. Describe the emotions and the feelings that you had at that moment.

It was amazing. The emotions were great, there were many people and I waited for this so much so the emotions were amazing. This was something special for me.

One year ago, you went to 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. It was your first time in the Olympics, what does it mean for you to represent Lithuania in the Olympics?

It is very important for me since I love Lithuania a lot and I am a big fan of my country. I don‘t want to remember these games, since my results weren't all that great, but it was very important and I felt honoured to represent my country in the Olympic Games. It was really fantastic, it was amazing.

Vytautas Strolia. Photo from private album
Vytautas Strolia. Photo from private album

What was the best moment for you in the Olympic Games?

I think that the best moment for me was the opening ceremony when we our entire team went out with our national flag, because later there were the competitions. It was the most memorable moment for me since, as I said before, my results were terrible and I am trying not to remember it.

What have you learned from your first experience there that you will take with you to the next Olympics?

What I have learned from it is that I need to work harder and to train more in order to get better results. I need to focus more on my technique and to get into a better shape.

The Olympic games took place on the Russian soil. It is not a secret that there is much tension between Lithuania and Russia. Did you feel it when you took part in the games?

No, I did not feel any tension, since it was the Olympic Games and I was focusing on sports. I have Russian friends and I also like to follow the Russian team in tournaments and I am hoping that they will take good places. It is sport and we are not trying to mix sports and politics.

Winter sports are not all that popular in Lithuania. Why is that?

Well, we have bad conditions for athletes, we do not have enough tracks for trainings, the last several winters we didn't have enough snow in order to get good training, and of course it is a question of finance. We always need more money. The other thing is that this sport doesn't sustain itself commercially in order to be attractive to young athletes and encourage them to focus on winter sports. I believe that if we have some better results in winter sports, than more kids will decide to focus on these sports than now.

What should be done in order to improve the situation?

I think that we need good results such as an Olympic medal and then it will be more popular. As I said, it will attract people to do these sports.

Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Michel Van Balkum
Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Michel Van Balkum

When can we expect to see a Lithuanian champion in winter Olympics?

Well, I want to believe that it will be in the next Games. I am very optimistic, since we have in Lithuania young and talented athletes that can do it. If we have good conditions and support from our federation, and the conditions for the athletes becomes better, then there will be no reason why we cannot do it.

Does the Lithuanian Olympic Committee help its athletes financially?

Of course! The financial support is always insufficient, but it is getting better and better.

Where do you see Lithuanian winter sports in 10 years from now?

As I said before, I hope to see winter sports in a better place with several Olympic medals and better conditions for Lithuanian athletes, and I think that it is going to be like that.

You took part in two world cups, what is the main difference between competing in the world cup and in the Olympic Games?

The Olympics are the Olympics. You have more emotion there, top sportsmen are coming to the Olympics, while in world cups you can even get to see not Olympic athletes at all. The Olympic Games are something special and emotional, it is the top in sports.

From a personal perspective, how have sports impacted your life?

I am leaving sport, it is part of my life, and I think that after my retirement I will stay in sports. I don’t know what to say about the impact because all my life and my thoughts are about sports. It is the foundation of my lifestyle and of who I am today.

The sport you're in requires not only physical skill, but also mental skills. How have you developed these skills?

You have to take part in many races, to work hard on trainings, and you are developing it.

Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Andrey Ivanov
Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Andrey Ivanov

What is the hardest thing in your sport, the cold or the physical pressures?

I think that it will be my mind because I think a lot before each tournament that it is going to be hard and I don‘t have the chance to win it. I know that I have to work on it. I don‘t need to have those thoughts, since they are hurting me in training and tournaments.

As a professional athlete, do you have any inspiration today? Any mentors or other athletes that you admire?

I don‘t have any inspirational figures, since I inspire myself with thoughts that I can get better results.

Describe differences between trainings during winters and summers. On what are you focusing more in each season?

In summer the trainings are harder, since we are running a lot, riding bikes, training on rollers, practicing in the gym, and all these are much longer than in the winter. During winter, we are focusing more on skiing and on our technique. Of course, in winter, too, we have gym training and we are running, but not as much. We have competitions in winters so we are not doing a lot of power trainings like in summer.

During your run for 15km, what are you thinking? What you are focusing your thoughts on?

Well my thoughts revolve around how very hard it is and that I don‘t have more power, but also that I need to give more and to get better place and to be faster and to finish it. Of course I think about technique in the race.

What is your dream as a professional athlete?

An Olympic medal and I will do everything in order to get it.

The Olympic Games in Sochi, how this fact that you took part in them changed you as a person?

It changed my point of view about the sport. After the Olympics, I understood that I really wanted to be an Olympic champion and I will do all what it takes in order to achieve this. I became stronger mentally. I became a better person, I think.

Recently, you decided to concentrate on biathlon. What brought you to make this decision?

Well, it is because I see my future there more than in cross-country. The trainings are better and the organization of it is better and I believe that I can get much better results in biathlon.

What are your hobbies besides skiing?

My hobbies are sports. I am doing a lot of sport besides skiing. I like to play basketball and football, I like to ride my bike and to swim. When I have free time I like to spend it doing sports.

It is still early to talk about it, but do you have plans for what you will do after you end your sports career?

I think that I will stay in sports, because I like it a lot and I see my life in it. Maybe some coaching career, but I don‘t know yet.

In the end, please tell us something about yourself that no one knows.

Well, I have one strange hobby and it is bees. In a village in Lithuania, I have seven beehives.

Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Andrey Ivanov
Vytautas Strolia. Photo by Andrey Ivanov

----

The winter sports in Lithuania is not as popular as basketball or football, but the Olympic team is still very young. By getting good training conditions and financial support which will allow for the athletes to travel at least in Europe, compete, and get more experience, will be finally worth the trouble. There is no reason why Lithuanian athletes cannot be good, like their colleagues in the summer Olympics. The future is in front of Lithuania, and we all hope to see first Lithuanian Olympic medalist in the next Olympic Games.

Leave a comment
or for anonymous commenting click here
By posting, you agree to terms
Read comments Read comments

Greg Monroe on the brawl with Jonas Valančiūnas: I would much rather play with a tough guy like Jonas than some timid player

The Toronto Raptors are getting ready for the upcoming basketball season this year by putting together...

Seibutis has been dragged into the NBA trade merry-go-round for a second time; the rights to the Lithuanian now belong to the Cleveland “Cavaliers”

The name of 33-year old Lithuanian guard, Renaldas Seibutis has been brought in for a second time in...

BC Rytas reveals new logo, featuring Vilnius symbols

The Vilnius-based BC Rytas , which changed its name earlier this summer, on Monday revealed a new...

An in-depth analysis of Lithuania’s national basketball team after the third window games! (2)

About 6 minutes into Lithuania’s first game versus Poland on June 28th, I was thinking to myself...

Šaras says he’s staying because he is at home here in LT

Šarūnas Jasikevičius is staying in Kaunas for at least another year. This is perhaps the most...