Sport in Lithuania

Sport in Lithuania

Following independence in 1990, the Lithuanian government set up the Physical Education and Sports Department to manage physical education in the schools as well as sports administration in the country. Over the next few years, Lithuanian sports organizations established or re-established membership in various international bodies, including the International Olympic Committee. Lithuania participated in the Winter Olympics in Albertville and every Winter and Summer Olympics since.

There are nearly 80 Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations in Lithuania and the Lithuanian Union of Sports Federations was founded in 1993 to unite them. The "Sports for All" organization was established to promote physical education and a healthy lifestyle for all Lithuanians.

Among the most popular sports in Lithuania are basketball, football, athletics and cycling. Professional sportsmen and trainers are educated in the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education.


Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania. A few facts:
* The Lithuanian basketball team has won Europe Championship in 1937, 1939, 2003. Won 2nd place in 1995 (Athens), and bronze in 2007.
* Bronze medal winners in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Summer Olympics. Won 4th place in 2004 Summer Olympics.
* Junior basketball team (under 19 years of age) has won European Championship in 2003 and took 2nd place in World Championship in the same year.
* Junior basketball team (under 21) has won World Championship in 2005 (Argentina)
* Europe Championship in 1939 was held in Lithuania.
* "Žalgiris" Kaunas has won Europe cup in 1998 and Euroleague in 1999.
* "Lietuvos Rytas" Vilnius has won ULEB Cup in 2005.
* Several Lithuanian basketball players have successfully played in the NBA:
** Arvydas Sabonis (Portland Trail Blazers, 1995-2001, 2002-03)
** Šarūnas Marčiulionis (Golden State Warriors and other teams, 1989-1997)
** Žydrūnas Ilgauskas (still playing for Cleveland Cavaliers)
** Darius Songaila (still playing for Washington Wizards)
*These players are newcomers to the NBA in the Fall of 2005:
** Šarūnas Jasikevičius (playing for Golden State Warriors)
** Martynas Andriuškevičius (played for Chicago Bulls)
** Linas Kleiza (playing for Denver Nuggets)

* Currently Lithuania is 5th in the FIBA [ men's world ranking]


The Lithuanian national football team has been rated around number 100 in FIFA World Rankings in recent years, with the highest rating being #42 on 20th August 1997, and the lowest #118 on 1st September 2004.

At the beginning of existence of the independent Lithuanian state (from 1919 until the Soviet occupation) the word "sport" was equaled to the word "football". Football players were the first sportsmen to participate in international competitions, notably the 1924 Olympic games in Paris and 1937 in World Cup qualifiers. During the occupation period football was also popular in Lithuania. The main problem in Lithuanian football is a lack of stadiums and training grounds.

There are individual players playing in strong European football leagues, most famous of them:

*Edgaras Jankauskas - winner of Champions League 2004 with FC Porto
*Deividas Šemberas - winner of UEFA Cup 2005 with CSKA

The A Lyga (English: The A League) is the top division of professional football in Lithuania.

Like the rest of the Europe Lithuanians do like to watch UEFA Champions League, the FIFA World Cup and other world class football tournaments. There are many fans of this sport.


Lithuanian athletes have won some medals in the Olympics and European/World championships, discus thrower Virglijus Alekna, two times Olympic gold medalist, being the top one.


There are Lithuanian cyclists with high achievements in prestigious cycling tours and in World Championships. The achievements of Lithuanian women cyclists are especially noteworthy.

Lithuanian women cyclists made their mark on the international scene starting from 1991. Leading the way in this were, among others, Zita Urbonaitė and Diana Čepelienė who took the 3rd place (overall GC) in the Women's Challenge in summer of 1991.

Among the best Lithuanian cyclists were twin sisters Jolanta Polikevičiūtė and Rasa Polikevičiūtė (2001 World Road Race Champion), Edita Pučinskaitė (1999 World Road Race Champion), and Diana Žiliūtė (1994 World Junior Road Race Champion, 1998 World Road Race Champion, and 2000 Olympic Games Road Race bronze medalist).

There is also a strong program of promotion of cycling at the junior level for girls in Lithuania culminating in an annual international race for girls in Panevėžys. A number of young Lithuanian riders have emerged from this program, led by Modesta Vžesniauskaitė who now stands among the top riders in the world.

Other Sports

*Orienteering is a popular sport that combines cross-country running with land navigation skills in the woods. Variations of the sport popular in Lithuania include bicycle orienteering and ski orienteering. Orienteering in Lithuania is organized by the [ Lietuvos Orientavimosi Sporto Federacija] .

*Amateur Radio Direction Finding is a sport that combines the skills of orienteering with the skills of radio direction finding. ARDF in Lithuania is organized by the [ Lietuvos Radijo Megeju Draugija] .

*Alpine skiing is also popular in Lithuania. Races are organized by the Lithuanian Alpine Ski Federation. There is one ski club for children, the [ Kalnu Ereliai] Ski Club. The club accepts children from 4-18 in 3 main groups: Learn To Ski, Sport Group and FIS Team.

External links

* [ Department of Physical Education and Sports of the Lithuanian Government] , in Lithuanian and English
* [ Organization and recent history of Lithuanian sports] , in English
* [ Report on Physical Education and "Sport for All" in Lithuania] (in English, MS Word doc)
* [ Lithuanian Olympic Committee] , in Lithuanian
* [ Lithuanian Cycling Federation] , in Lithuanian
* [ Lithuanian Soccer: History and Statistics] , in English
* [ Lithuanian soccer premiership "A lyga"] , in Lithuanian
* [ Lithuanian soccer ultras] , in Lithuanian

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