August 11, 2012
Even though two time Olympic gold medalist Māris Štrombergs was asked to be Latvia’s flagbearer at the closing ceremonies, Štrombergs and Latvia’s BMXers decided that the honour should go to Ineta Radēviča who had missed a bronze medal in the long jump by just 1cm.
In a press release Latvia’s Olympic Committee reported that after making their decision, the BMXers sought out Radēviča who, overcome with emotion, agreed. She was quoted saying that this was the best thing that’s happened to her in London.
On the last day of competition there were no surprises and Latvia’s medal count stayed at one gold and one bronze. As of late Saturday, Latvia was 48th in the official medal standings where golds count more than silvers and silvers more than bronze. Meanwhile Lithuania pulled in a sprint canoeing silver on the last day of competition to up their count to four medals including a gold and finished tied at 40th while Estonia trailed at 61st with a silver and a bronze.
Latvia’s last hopefuls, pentathlete Denis Čerkovskis ended up 19th, wrestler Armands Zvirbulis did not make it past the quarter-finals, sprint kayakers Krists Straume and Aleksejs Rumjancevs placed 3rd in the B final which put them in 11th place overall while racer walker Igors Kazakevičs came in 45th over 50km.
Viewers of the Games no doubt noticed that there were faces and names that one would not normally associate with the country whose colours the athletes were carrying. Not surprising in this day of mass global movement and dual citizenship. One such athlete was Sanita Pušpūre, a 30 year old Latvian now from Cork in Ireland. Pušpūre competed for Ireland in the women’s single sculls which is a rowing discipline. She finished 1st in the C final putting her 13th overall. Pušpūre has competed internationally for Latvia but qualified for the Olympics for Ireland. Traditional sports such as Gaelic football, hurling and rugby are popular with the Irish leaving the field wide open for recent immigrants in others.
Latvia maintained its medal streak at the London games. They have come home with at least one medal from each Summer Olympics since the 1932 at Los Angeles when legendary walker Jānis Daliņš took the silver in the 50km race. That of course does not include games held while Latvia was occupied. Moreover, high profile wins this year in BMX cycling and Beach Volleyball mean that the name Latvia was seen and heard by millions around the world.
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.