VILNIUS - Basketball is no longer the only sport to put Lithuania's name on the map. On Aug. 25, 41-year-old Arunas Rinkevicius set history by becoming the first man to windsurf across the Baltic Sea. The businessman completed the 200-kilometer journey, from Sventoji, Lithuania to the Swedish island of Gotland, in a remarkable 10 hours and 25 minutes.
Swedish coast guard officials met the Lithuanian, who was reportedly exhausted but in good shape, near the southern tip of Gotland.
"It is the first crossing of the Baltic Sea by a windsurfer," Ugnius Savickas, spokesman for the Lithuanian windsurfing association told the AFP news agency.
Weather conditions were perfect when Rinkevicius set off from the coast of Sventoji at 8 a.m., and remained ideal for most of his trip. The windsurfer was followed by a support boat with a team of event organizers 's all members of the Lithuanian windsurfing association.
Rinkevicius accomplished most of his journey with an 11-square-meter sail, switching to a slalom sail when the wind changed direction. The Lithuanian, who wore a GPS satellite-positioning armband to navigate his way across the sea, hit a top speed of 45 kilometers per hour.
"He looked OK," said coast guard official Ulf Lenholm after helping Rinkevicius onto shore in Gotland.
In fact, Rinkevicius was in such good shape, that he wanted to windsurf back to the Baltic state. Yet bad weather forced him to take a boat instead.
"You cannot defeat the sea - it is just too big. You can only adjust to it," Rinkevicius was quoted by the AFP as saying.
Yet the feat was more a symbolic triumph than it was an athletic one. The journey served as a tribute to the Gotland Memorandum of Aug. 6, 1989, in which Lithuanians across the world called for the independence of their country from Soviet rule.
This record, Rinkevicius said, was tribute to an epic step in Lithuania's struggle for freedom.
The Lithuanian windsurfing association held several competitions to determine which athlete was strong enough to attempt the journey. Rinkevicius, who began his professional windsurfing career 15 years ago, won the trial, and later proved his determina-tion to the world.