SE: Four-time Olympian Skujytė Reflects on Track and Field Career
Since Austra Skujytė’s Olympic performance in 2012 — a fifth-place heptathlon finish in London at age 33 — her life has undergone a number of significant changes.
The former Kansas State track and field star began coaching at the Lithuanian Sport University. In 2014, the four-time Olympic qualifier and silver medalist (2004, Athens) got married and had her first child, a son she named Jokūbas — Jakob in English.
About a year later, Skujytė — the only woman ever to compete in the Olympic heptathlon four times — was back on the track and training for a fifth Olympic bid. Her effort for the historic feat fell short when she suffered a cramp in the 800-meter run, the heptathlon’s final event, in this summer’s European Athletics Championships.
Still, Skujytė’s track and field career was filled with memorable and remarkable achievements, including four All-America performances and back-to-back outdoor national titles in the heptathlon in 2001-02, when K-State’s women claimed consecutive Big 12 outdoor titles.
Already a member of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, Skujytė received news early this summer of another induction for her achievements. She will be added to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on October 2, in Wichita, marking a return to Kansas she never thought would happen, but it is one she looks forward to very much.
K-State Sports Extra recently had a chance to catch up with Skujytė.
SE: How tough of a decision was it deciding whether or not to continue your track and field career after the 2012 Olympics?
AS: It is very hard to stop. I just didn't get the feeling that it was time to finish my athletic career. I know I am getting older and older as an athlete, but... there is always a “but.”
SE: Now that you are done competing, do you take time to reflect on your many accomplishments in track and field?
AS: There are moments I treasure, but these are not just my accomplishments. There are people who played a tremendous role for those moments to happen.
SE: What are some of your top memories from competing?
AS: It is like everything in life, we tend to remember all of the best and all of the worst. My silver medal in Athens, (K-State’s) Big 12 Championship team victories in 2001 and 2002 — these are my special moments. But I do remember all the "fun" stuff as well: crawling to the finish line in 800m run in the pentathlon in the 2000 indoor European Championships; being disqualified for crossing the line in the 800m run in the heptathlon at the 2001 World Championships (after winning 6th place), and later being restored to my position. It will always be fun to remember my first Olympics, the opening parade, shaking hands before my first event, and the crowd.
SE: How did your Olympic experiences impact your life?
AS: It is hard to say. The Olympics are the place where every athlete is visible by (their entire) country. This is the competition where I mostly felt a tremendous responsibility for my country. And later on in everyday life, I carry this responsibility still. People know me, and this is just one more reason to always behave my best.
SE: What kind of influence did K-State and its coaching staff have on you?
AS: I love K-State’s coaches. They are the best. Coach (Cliff) Rovelto is very dear to me. I am very thankful that our life paths crossed. Karol (Rovelto) and Coach Rovelto are like family to me and they always will be. It is a joy when I get to see them. (Former cross country) coach (Mike) Smith was the one who started calling and recruiting me. Later after graduation, I shared an office with him and he has stayed in my memory as a happy person. He was always happy, optimistic and joyful.
SE: Akela Jones broke your pentathlon and heptathlon K-State records the last two years. Was it difficult to hear your records were broken?
AS: It wasn't hard to hear at all. The records are meant to be broken. And I am happy for both of them, Akela and Coach Rovelto. It is a great joy to break a record. I had my time to rejoice; now it is Akela's time.
SE: You will be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame this October. What does that honor mean to you?
AS: I was very much surprised. I have to admit I didn't know there was a Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. It is nice to know that I am remembered.
SE: Are you looking forward to being back in Kansas?
AS: After I was inducted to the K-State Hall of Fame, I truly thought it was my last time being in Manhattan, Kansas, and it was sad to realize that. I am so glad I was wrong.
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