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Walking through footmarks of the past with Gytis Juska

“As I say with the laughter: in basketball there play ten people and thousands of stare. In tennis there are two players and thousands of stare. And in orienteering thousands of run, but there are none of spectators”, laughed winner of the first Soviet Union’s championship Gytis Juska. Vilnius University’s Physics Faculty’s professor was an orienteering athlete more or less all his life.

When we started to discuss about the suitable time for an interview with habilitated Ph. D. lecturer, he mentioned that there is a lack of time in his schedule. All his work is dedicated to University: lectures and so on. Nevertheless, he suggested for me to come to the orienteering competition: “You can always find me here, let’s talk over there”, – professor smiled. This year he gets 75 but still finds time for orienteering in daily routine.

Some of people have reached the finish only the next day

In late 1960’s the first Soviet Union’s orienteering championship was held in Carpathia mountains. One of the most important issues for orienteering trying to get into the professional sport from touristic discipline. At that time still young 21-year-old-scientiss Gytis Juska remembers of how some of competitors reached the finish line only the next day.

“All the newspapers wrote that I am the champion. But, to be honest, I got only 3rd position two times, they counted an overall result”, – Gytis Juska said and reminded that they came one week before the race just to settle down with an unusual terrain. Carpathia’s enormous mountains were outlandish for the Lithuanian people.

First steps – at touristic rally
Orieteering sport has a very deep history – more then a century. First of all, it started in Scandinavia during military tactic operations. Therefore in Lithuania it came as a discipline in tourism.

“I remember as it was today, in touristic rally’s there were two occasions. At first we go with a map and get the control points. All the course is pretty tough and long and therefore we take some food and a backpack with us. During the next day there was a course with many obstacles: climbing the ropes or building a tent – many different tasks”, – Juska remembered

Measuring hills with water pipes
Habilitated Ph. D. spend a long time in a forest not only by running orienteering courses. The vast majority of long daylight was dedicated for slow walking in the forest’s terrain and because of this he gained his name printed nearby 16 authentic maps. The first map that Gytis Juska drew was in 1974. But the truth is – at that time all the devices for mapping were much simplified to compare with nowadays innovations. “Even if you wanted to measure hills heigh, you had to take two water pipes and slowly walk step-by-step through the forest. When you finally measure the angle between the hill and the pipe, you get the contour’s amount. When you think of it now, it seems a bit childish”, – about difficult method of mapping advanced orienteerer said. Today it may take a few seconds by typing in satellite map the name of the place.

Orienteering sport’s prehistory’s athlete recalls of how the first maps were drew by hand. “After this, there appeared many photography photos, but they didn’t had any contour markings. Even the control points were built randomly on trails, not on an exact feature“, – Gytis Juska said.

Sport for an academic community
Nearly all his life step by step with an orienteering sport runner said – almost all athletes in this discipline have a significance steps in their academic life as well. Gytis Juska personally has a wide CV as well. He has two Lithuanian scientist nominees and wrote more then 300 scientific articles.

“A half of the century ago, nearly all the National team’s athletes were with Bachelor degrees. Such a people used to do this sport. Maybe it is because of the most important issue is not to show your own strength but to apply the logical thinking of how to complete a course by spending less time” – Juska recalls about the sport which is often mentioned as running while playing chess.

“The goal is not to beat each other, but to find all the controls as accurate as possible. That is why even very old people are still in the forest “, – Gytis Juska reasoned why there are orienteerers at any age.

Text and photo by Patricija Babrauskaitė



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