August 06, 2012
Whatever else might happen to the Latvian team of Mārtiņš Pļaviņš and Jānis Šmēdiņš as they proceed into the semi-finals of beach volleyball competition in the 2012 Summer Olympics, it appears clear they have left an impression—especially on the Americans.
It was in California, after all, that the sport was born. And just like four years ago in Beijing, when Māris Strombergs took the gold in the all-American sport of BMX cycling, the small Baltic nation is making sports fans take notice in London.
Journalists working for American media seemed just as stunned as the American team of Jake Gibbs and Sean Rosenthal, who lost Aug. 6 to the Latvians two sets to one.
Yahoo! Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski offered a sobering fact for fans:
For only the second time in the event’s Olympic history, the U.S. men’s beach volleyball teams won’t win a medal in the tournament.
David Wharton, writing in the Los Angeles Times, found meaning in the slight turn in the weather during the match:
As night descended on center court at Horse Guards Parade, a gentle rain began to fall. In that moment, you could see it and feel it, the gloom that had settled over the American men in beach volleyball.
Michael C. Lewis, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune, started his story with an observation of Utah native Gibb:
Jake Gibb stood slump-shouldered and shell-shocked, staring blankly at the spot where the volleyball had just landed in the sand and ended his gold-medal dreams at the London Olympics.
For Gibb, the defeat was “most disappointing loss of my career,” according to a story posted on Team USA’s official website.
Over at NBC Olympics, Jon Ackerman summed up the “stunning end” for the American beach volleyball team and the meaning of these Olympics: “It’s a cruel place for a hot streak to come to an end.”
The Latvians now are guaranteed at least a fourth-place finish as they head into the Aug. 7 semi-finals, facing Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.