On this day in sport: 26 October

Jonas Čepulis, 29, was unable to defeat American George Foreman, 19, for the Olympic Heavyweight title on this day in 1968.

The Olympic tournament took place in Mexico City in the midst of the counter culture movement; mathematically the halfway mark of the Cold War.

Both the United States and USSR utilised such sporting rivalry as propaganda due to the nations’ differences in political ideologies while boxing, and many other International sports, could only be showcased at amateur level.

Therefore as this was the only title fight in Mexico City to feature both nations; the victory tasted so much sweeter for the Americans.

And the celebrations did not just stop there for Uncle Sam.

This outcome brought America’s total to seven in the Boxing tournament as the outright leading nation (2 Gold, 1 Silver, 4 Bronze) ahead of the USSR with six (3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze).

Footage can been seen here:

However it’s not until now that a cloud of ignorance has been cleared and we can reveal that the Americans defeated “the Russians”, as reported at the time, convincingly.

First we must identify Čepulis as a Lithuanian considering he was born in Zvanagala on August 11, 1939 – ironically a week prior to the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany.

The Lithuanian convincingly defeated Britain’s William Wells, East German Bernd Anders and Mexican Joaquín Rocha to reach final only to be knocked out by Foreman in the second round.

This would now elevate Poland to equal second with the Russians as the fellow Eastern European nation claimed a total of five medals; including the Light Welterweight title by Jerzy Kulej.

However this national modification does not stop here.

USSR’s highest of honours in the tournament was the Light Heavyweight title which was taken out by Daniel Poznyak.

The reigning European amateur champion defeated East German Jürgen Schlegel, Bulgarian Georgi Stankov before claiming the Gold medal due to a walkover by Romanian Ion Monea.

Few people at the time realised he was born “Danas Pozniakas” in the Polish city of Białystok (also translated as Baltstogė); to Lithuanian parents in a largely populated and historic Lithuanian neighbourhood.

As a result of his efforts the late Pozniakas was rewarded with the Lithuanian Athlete of the year title for 1968 before winning a European title the following year.

Pozniakas, who was born two months after Čepulis, captured four European Amateur podium appearances (Gold 1965, 67, 69 & a Silver 1963); finishing with 203 overall wins out of 217.

Therefore if his Olympic medal was also officially claimed by Lithuania then “the Russians” (as ignorantly reported) would have in fact tied for third with the host nation Mexico with four medals.

As this was the highest of achievements in the division theoretically you could also say both the US and the host nation tied for most Gold medals with “the Russians” if Pozniakas was recognised as a Lithuanian.

The coveted fighter would go on to continue his career in the ring as an AIBA referee from 1974 and passed away in Vilnius on February 4, 2005.

Footage of his funeral has since been uploaded on YouTube.

Also on this day in sport, the USSR claimed its second straight Olympic Men’s Volleyball title after defeating Czechoslovakia on the final day of play.

22-year-old Lithuanian Vasilijus Matuševas featured on the team roster and was rewarded game time in the Soviet team’s 3:1 triumphs over Brazil and the host nation Mexico.

Japan claimed its first Silver medal ahead of glorious 1972 Olympic tournament while reigning Silver medalists Czechoslovakia had to settle for Bronze in the ten nation competition.

Meanwhile on the basketball courts the USA claimed its 7th Olympic basketball title in as many tournaments thanks to a 65:50 triumph against Yugoslavia the day prior.

However some basketball critics believe the USSR, eventual Bronze medalist thanks to a 70:53 win over Brazil, would have proved a far more dominant finalist had it not been for its shock loss to Yugoslavia (63:62).

The Soviet team included 23-year-old Lithuanian Modestas Paulauskas, Georgian Zurab Sakandelidze and Estonian pair Priit Tomson & Jaak Lipso.

Earlier in the 1968 Olympics, Lithuanians Vytautas Briedis, Juozas Jagelavičius, Zigmas Jukna, Antanas Bagdonavičius captured the Bronze medal in the Men’s eights rowing team at the Lake Xochimilco course while Stasys Šaparnis claimed a Silver medal in the Modern Pentathlon.

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