August 09, 2012
After falling behind and losing the 1st set, Latvia’s Mārtiņš Pļaviņš and Jānis Šmēdiņš rallied to win the last two sets and defeated the Dutch bringing home a bronze medal for Latvia. Beach volleyball was first played at the 1996 Atlanta games and is popular around the world. For Latvia to win a bronze medal and hold their own against the likes of Germany, Brazil and the United States is a major accomplishment.
Meanwhile Latvia’s BMXers came through in the quarterfinals. Edžus Treimanis, Rihards Veide and Beijing gold medalist Māris Štrombergs, all advanced to Friday’s semi-finals. Latvia has three riders in the two semi-final heats. That’s more than any other country. Australia, Colombia, France, the Netherlands and the United States have two while Great Britain, New Zealand and Switzerland round off the field each with one. The final consisting of the top eight will also be run on Friday.
Latvia has a tradition of excelling in the bobsleigh, luge and the skeleton, dangerous winter sports where athletes hurl themselves down icy runs at breath-taking speeds. Perhaps it’s not surprising that they’re leaving their mark in BMX cycling which also features wild rides by cyclists racing around a tight course with jumps and sharp bends.
Ineta Radeviča missed a bronze medal in the women’s long-jump on Wednesday by only 1cm and came in fourth. One centimeter is just over 3/8 of an inch. That’s how close she came.
While Latvia’s canoeists, pentathletes and a wrestler are still competing, all eyes will be on the BMXers to see if they can bring home another medal. That would equal the medal count won by each of Lithuania and Estonia.
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.