August 10, 2012
Twenty five year old Māris Štrombergs from Latvia, nicknamed “The Machine”, repeated his Beijing 2008 victory and took the gold medal in the men’s Bicycle Motocross (a.k.a BMX) at London finishing in 37.576 seconds. He is the first ever athlete from Latvia to win two Olympic gold medals. BMX was introduced to the Olympics in 2008 and Štrombergs has been the sport’s only Olympic gold medalist.
Strombergs is 25 and was born in Valmiera but now lives in California. He took up biking at the age of 6 and between races is known to visit elementary schools to promote a healthy diet and life-style.
After winning in Beijing, Štrombergs struggled on the racing circuit. In 2010 he suffered major injuries that required surgery and took him out of action for six months. He had not impressed in the lead-up at London and finished 3rd in his semi-final heat. But the veteran racer put it together when it counted and led throughout the final run staying ahead of the Australian silver medal winner. Colombia took the bronze.
Meanwhile Latvia’s 24 year old BMXer Edžus Treimanis placed 5th in his semi-final run while 20 year old Rihards Veide came in 7th. Although neither advanced, Latvia made a strong statement placing three of the final sixteen riders. Latvia’s sole women’s BMXer, 21 year old Sandra Aleksejeva, finished 7th in her semi-final heat and did not advance.
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.