Vladislovas "Vladas" Česiūnas (born 15 March 1940 in Vyšnialaukiai, Jonava District Municipality) is a Lithuanian sprint canoeist who competed in the early 1970s. He won one Olympic medal and six ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships medals during his career. He later became known for his role in "The Česiūnas Affair" when he defected from the 1979 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Duisburg, West Germany (now Germany near Düsseldorf) only to return to the Soviet Union afterwards for his "misconduct".
|Men's canoe sprint|
|1972 Munich||C-2 1000 m|
|1973 Tampere||C-2 10000 m|
|1974 Mexico City||C-2 1000 m|
|1974 Mexico City||C-2 10000 m|
|1975 Belgrade||C-2 10000 m|
|1973 Tampere||C-2 1000 m|
|1971 Belgrade||C-1 1000 m|
At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Česiūnas won gold in the C-2 1000 m with Yuri Lobanov. He also won six canoe sprint world championship medals with four golds (C-2 1000 m: 1974, C-2 10000 m: 1973, 1974, 1975), one silver (C-2 1000 m: 1973), and one bronze (C-1 1000 m: 1971).
The Česiūnas AffairEdit
At the 1979 canoe sprint World Championships in Duisburg, West Germany, Česiūnas attended the event as a spectator. During the event he vanished, the first in a series of defections that would later include principal ballet dancers Alexander Godunov, Leonid Kozlov and Valentina Kozlov, and figure skaters Oleg Protopopov and Ludmila Belousova.
The Soviets claimed that Česiūnas had met a woman named Ursula Vorkhert who invited to spend the night with him and then drugged him up. Česiūnas later appeared with anti-Communist Lithuanians and being asked to speak out in favor of a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, two months before the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan and almost six months before American President Jimmy Carter's actual boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics.
Česiūnas made his way to the Soviet Embassy in Bonn—"not without incident" and returned to the Soviet Union and imprisoned with a fractured skull according to Kurt Rebmann, West Germany's chief federal public prosecutor in 1979. Another reason the Soviets were concerned also had to do with a possible book Česiūnas had planned to publish on doping in the Soviet Union prior to the 1980 Summer Olympics. The Soviets later toned down their rhetoric on the incident, stating Česiūnas had "got into dubious company" while the West Germans continued to maintain he had been kidnapped.
In 2002, telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Česiūnas stated he returned from West Germany voluntary but was threatened by Soviet officials with fifteen years of hard labor in a coal mine for his defection and was not imprisoned only due to the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow. As a result, Česiūnas was demoted from his custom agent position to being a civilian coach at a children's sports school which paid only a third the salary of his customs position.
Later in lifeEdit
Česiūnas earned two presidential decrees from Lithuania after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. They were the Order of the Cross of Vytis ("Cross of the Knight") and the Commemorative Medal of 13 January. In 2000, Česiūnas was informed that Vorkhert, whom he met in Lithuania in 1998 after the country's 1991 independence, had died at 75. Česiūnas later returned to his customs position, becoming head of shifts for Lithuanian customs as of 2002. He also received monthly pensions from the Soviet and Lithuanian Olympic Committee of US$30 and US$120, respectively.
- Sports-reference.com profile - accessed September 21, 2008.
- Wallechinsky, David and Jaime Loucky (2008). "Canoeing: Men's Canadian Pairs 1000 Meters". In The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics: 2008 Edition. London: Aurum Press Limited. p. 483.
- Photograph of Česiūnas (front of canoe) and Lobanov in action during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. - accessed September 21, 2008.
- ICF medalists for Olympic and World Championships - Part 1: flatwater (now sprint): 1936-2007. Archived 2009-01-21 at WebCite
- ICF medalists for Olympic and World Championships - Part 2: rest of flatwater (now sprint) and remaining canoeing disciplines: 1936-2007. Archived 2009-11-09 at WebCite
- "KGB Kidnapping". TIME October 22, 1979. - accessed September 21, 2008.
- Brouhaha at the Bolshoi. Time, October 1, 1979.
- APSE Dallas Morning News featuring the September 9, 2002 Los Angeles Times interview with Česiūnas. Archived September 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine - accessed September 21, 2008.
- Lithuanian President decree listing as of June 18, 2004. This list includes Vlaislavis "Vladas" Česiūnas. - accessed September 21, 2008.