This feature originally appeared in the 2023 Spring edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly. The Cal Athletics flagship magazine features long-form sports journalism at its finest and provides in-depth coverage of the scholar-athlete experience in Berkeley. Printed copies are mailed four times a year to Bear Backers who give annually at the Bear Club level (currently $600 or more). For more information on how you can receive a printed version of the Cal Sports Quarterly at home, send an email to CalAthleticsFund@berkeley.edu or call (510) 642-2427.
July 19, 2022 – It is a cold and drizzly night, and Mykolas Alekna looks nervous.
Maybe he doesn’t particularly seem so, except to those who know him. Alekna is not the type to draw attention to himself, other than the attention that he naturally attracts throwing the discus. Up until the NCAA Outdoor Championships – and this June evening at Oregon’s Hayward Field – Alekna, 19, had defeated all other collegians by over 13 feet in every single competition and set the all-time NCAA discus record as a freshman. The athletics world is abuzz with discussion about the potential of this young Lithuanian, already dubbing him a future legend.
“What he’s doing right now has never been done before at this age,” says Cal’s throws coach Mohamad Saatara. “It’s kind of uncharted territory.”
Watching Alekna dominate is a marvel – like walking into the wrong event and seeing something that you shouldn’t. It feels unfair to watch someone like this in a collegiate setting, someone who could have immediately hit the professional circuit straight out of the 2021 U20 World Championships, where he won the title by over 10 feet.
It is easy to forget that at the center of it all is a quiet and observant young man, at his core down-to-earth and appreciative. Very few would call Alekna talkative (which, perhaps, lends itself well to his favorite hobby of fishing), but it is obvious how deeply he cares for his Golden Bear teammates and is well-loved by them in return.
“We have so much fun together as a team,” he says. “They’re all very nice people and helped me a lot when I got here… they’re very good friends and very good teammates.”
With his calm demeanor and kind smile, Alekna is easy to root for – and enters the 2022 NCAA championship as the overwhelming favorite. He leads the nation’s No. 2 discus thrower, Virginia’s 21-year-old Claudio Romero, in the standings by over five and a half feet.
Yet, for the first…
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