Interview with Vidmantas Urbonas

20.02.2011 | Interview with Vidmantas Urbonas (Lithuania) by Harn-Wei Kua

We haven't heard from you for some time; what has been keeping you busy for the past few years?
I may say that I left the professional sports and now I work with children and young people. I am coach now. I also took to some environment protection campaigns. As at present our world is saturated with all kinds of activities and products, it has become so dynamic that sometimes it even fails to see that it is destroying itself. My conviction is that these processes should be loud-voiced in various ways, even in extraordinary ways, in order to draw people‘s attention to the damage to nature done by the so-called civilization. Sometimes it is not enough to raise a slogan or stand in a picket line. So I thought of an extraordinary action – to swim across the Baltic Sea (209 km) and by doing so draw attention of the media and the nations living around it to the pollution problems of that sea. And, I think, I succeeded.

Now I am implementing a 5-year environmental campaign the goal of which is to shatter the world community and raise its awareness of the endangered, vanishing or polluted fresh water resources. The campaign is called „Water is life“. During this campaign I expect to swim across the five fresh water lakes in five continents – the biggest ones or located highest above the sea level. In 2009 I already conquered the Titikaka Lake in the South America (distance – 46 km, 4000 m above sea level, water temperature +12°C). In 2010 I did the Yellow Stone Lake in the North America (distance – 17 km, 3000 m above sea level, water temperature +8,6°C ). The lakes still on my list are the Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee or Lac des Quatre Cantons) in Europe, the Baikal Lake in Asia, the Tana Lake in Africa and the Great Lake in Tasmania, Australia...

This year, the double deca world challenge was successfully held for only the second time in the history of the sport. We have 7 official finishers. What kind of memories do you have from your first-place finish in the 1998 double deca?
Those indelible impressions were rather widely depicted in my autobiographic essay title "Sea is My Purgatory". There, among other things, I wrote: "During the whole course I felt like I was above it. My body was running, swimming and biking, but my thoughts were far away from the course – in previous triathlon competitions, hotels, homes of the Mexican people where I had stayed, travels in Lithuania, my childhood, dancing parties in my adolescence... The body at that time was ordered: you must complete that and that many kilometers, reach the finish line, and you will rest then. And the body was conquering kilometer after kilometer..." That event was an exquisite phenomenon, it comes back to mind until present day.

You did remarkably well for this event. How did you train for an event like this?
I think that many athletes do similar training. Kilometers and hours of swimming, running and biking provide you a feeling of freedom and at the same time you train your muscles and body for endurance events like the one we are talking about here. But that is the physiology side of the matter. There is something else in that. I was also applying the psychological and self-control method I call "Absolute harmony method" and which I created, tested and applied to myself. I keep on using it also after Mexico – there are no competitors, there is only you, your life is the course, and you have to live that life and survive.

I am sure many people look up to you, especially the younger athletes. What do you think are some of the problems that young athletes face when training for ultra distance endurance sports in Lithuania? What advice do you give them?
Like I have already told you I am coach now. I am trying to transfer my experience to young generation and I am very pleased when it helps young people to achieve results in sports and not only in sports. I pay considerable attention to the results not only in sports. I consider spiritual and will development to be a great value. I give various pieces of advice. During competitions they would depend on the situation. Other type of advice will be given when communicating with children in the out-of-sports environment. I seek to provoke independent thinking. I tell kids that one has to listen to what one‘s mind and body tells.

Everything should come from one's inside. I keep telling that parents might be demanding one thing, teachers - talking about other issues and I, their coach, asking for something else. I keep telling them: "I, your coach, cannot engage in total surveillance of what you are doing, how many kilometers you run or bike. Please figure for yourself what is good and acceptable for you and why you are doing this or that thing, if you wish to learn swimming – listen to me and follow my instructions, if you wish to become a well known athlete – trust yourself. This is something you have to choose yourself"

What are the most valuable life lessons that you learn from your participation in ultra triathlons and ultra swimming?
Here I would answer with a quotation from my book: "Every endeavor is always different. Every triathlon competition is different though the course and the distance are the same. Weather conditions, people, yourself and your willingness might be different. Besides, by such next time you got older, cleverer and more mature. Every day brings in something new. Every day you perform the same actions in mechanical terms, however every day it is done in a different way because physiologically you already got older by one day..."

What do you like to see in the way ultra triathlon is being developed in the years to come?
To judge from the info available, the present IUTA management is working quite well. New competitions emerge on the calendar, championships are held, rating tables are maintained. There could be championships covering the variety of distance combinations. I think it would be also good to revive a possibility for the triathletes to seek world records (like 24h triathlon) what would help to promote ultra triathlon worldwide. Also more attention on the IUTA website should be given to those athletes who were at the outset of ultra triathlon. I also think that it would be worth while announcing three best results in every distance set, this would induce the athletes seek similar results. I think that there is no future without the past.

What are your wishes for the new year?
The coming year will bring new challenges to me. Swimming across the Baikal Lake – the biggest world‘s fresh water accumulation – is awaiting for me. I will have to cover 80 km in +7°C water temperature. I also cherish hopes that the young generation under my coaching will show promising results at the ITU European championship. I also cherish ideas of bringing back ultra triathlon competitions to Lithuania. I also would like to greet all ultra triathlon community with the coming new year 2011 and wish they, their families and close people stay in good health, have a good and impressive year, many bristly starts and victorious finishes.

Can you think of 3 words that best describe Vidmantas Urbonas?

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