August 05, 2012
Latvia’s beach volleyball pair of Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins beat Norway 2:0 (21:18 and 21:16) and remain undefeated to advance to the quarter finals. On Monday they will face the winner of Saturday’s match between Russia and the USA. Win or lose they are guaranteed at least an 8th place finish.
The second pair of Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins face off in the round of 16 against 3rd ranked Germany on Saturday to see if they too can make it to the quarter finals. It will be a tall order but the two Latvian pairs have surprised at London.
Things got interesting in beach volleyball on Friday when the top-ranked USA pair who were gold medalists in Beijing and were ranked 2nd in London were upset and eliminated by the Italians.
So far Latvia’s beach volleyballers have gone the furthest as other Latvian athletes have failed to deliver although the games are only half-way through.
Sixty-five year old pistol-shooter Afanasijs Kuzmins, in his 9th Olympics this year, finished 17th in a field of 18. He won gold under the Soviets at Seoul in 1988 and a silver at Barcelona in 1992 as part of Latvia’s team. This time he did not qualify for the Games but was given the one wild card berth awarded to Latvia’s Olympic Committee.
Meanwhile athletics, or track and field as it is more commonly known, kicked off on Friday.
The heptathlon is a women’s track and field event and consists of seven disciplines: the 100m hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, the 200m, the long jump, the javelin and the 800m. It is a test of strength, endurance and speed. It was added to the Olympics for women in 1984 and replaced the five event pentathlon. Laura Ikauniece finished 15th after day one, while Aiga Gribuste was 23rd in a field of 38. Competition continues on Saturday.
Ikauniece was a surprise bronze winner at this year’s European championships after moving up from junior ranks. Latvian fans should take note of that as they continue to wait for one of their athletes to get to the podium. Most of the medal winners for Latvia in the Summer Games since independence was restored have been a surprise.
The Games are over, however, for Latvian athletes in gymnastics, judo, swimming, table tennis, the shot put and road cycling.
Viesturs Zariņš lives in Canada and is a periodic contributor to Latvians Online. He was a member of the World Federation of Free Latvians executive board from 1991 through 1999 and a board member of the Latvian National Federation in Canada for 10 years, including three years as its president.