Tons of excitement in our house today with the start of the 2016 Olympics in Rio! The Opening Ceremonies are tonight at 7pm on NBC; we’ll be watching as the US team walks in following Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals including 18 gold medals in Olympic swimming.
We will also be cheering for the Latvian Olympic team, walking in with over 30 athletes and led by 2x gold medalist, Māris Štrombergs. Štrombergs successfully defended his Olympic title in men's BMX cycling in the London Olympics in 2012, becoming the first Latvian athlete to win two Olympic gold medals since 1991 and the only bmx gold medalist since the sport debuted in ‘08. There were three Olympic medals in Beijing: Māris Štrombergs with his gold in men’s BMX cycling, a silver for Ainārs Kovals in the men's javelin throw, and Viktors Ščerbatihs with a bronze in weightlifting.
|Štrombergs, source here|
The Beijing trifecta was followed with two medals in London in 2012. Latvia won a hard-fought bronze in men’s beach volleyball, Mārtiņš Pļaviņš and Jānis Šmēdiņš showing the rest of the world what the fans at Gaŗezers volleyball weekend have known all along – Latvians are world-class volleyball players. Well, among other talents, like BMX cycling.
|Pļaviņš and Šmēdiņš in London, source here|
Štrombergs will be defending his BMX title in Rio, and Šmēdiņš is back for volleyball gold with teammate Aleksandrs Samoilavs. Their first game is Sunday (August 7th) against Canada, followed by a faceoff with Cuba on the 9th & Brazil on the 11th. Group standings in Pool D will determine if they advance to the elimination round.
|Šmēdiņš and Samoilavs with a FIVB beach volleyball world tour Olsztyn grand slam this June, source here|
Other athletes to watch include Jeļena Prokopčuka, two-time winner of the NYC Marathon (2005 & 2006) and three time participant of the summer Olympics (1996, 2000 & 2004). Prokopčuka is the record holder for seven Latvian records, ranging from 3000 meters to the 26 mile-long marathon.
|NYC marathon champ, source here|
Also keep an eye out for first-time Olympian Toms Skujiņš, the young cyclist who took the cycling world by storm in the 2015 Tour of California when he won the leaders jersey and the king of the mountain jersey after a solo-breakaway in stage 3. Toms will have every cycling fan in the Upstate rooting for him, as Toms was racing for Greenville-based Hincapie during this first of two Tour of California wins. This year Toms won Stage 5, currently racing for Cannondale-Drapac.
|Toms Skujiņš, source here|
Here is the full Latvian line-up as per the Latvian Olympic committee’s website:
Laura Ikauniece-Admidiņa, track & field
Mareks Ārents, track & field
Ketija Birzule, sailing
Jevgēņijs Borodavko, judo
Gunta Latiševa-Čudare, track & field
Anastasija Grigorjeva, wrestling
Ariana Kira Hilborna, track & field
Rebeka Koha, weightlifting
Dagnis Iļjins, canoe sprint
Uvis Kalniņš, swimming
Ilona Marhele, track & field
Līna Mūze, track & field (reserves, injured in the European Championship)
Ruslans Nakoņečnijs, pentathlon (reserves)
Artūrs Ņikiforenko, judo
Jeļena Ostapenko, tennis
Sinta Ozoliņa, track & field
Madara Palameika, track & field
Agnese Pastare, track & field
Artūrs Plēsnieks, weightlifting
Jeļena Čelnova-Prokopčuka, track & field
Pauls Pujāts, track & field
Aļona Ribakova, swimming
Arnis Rumbenieks, track & field
Aleksejs Rumjancevs, canoe sprint
Aleksandrs Samoilovs, beach volleyball
Aleksejs Saramotins, cycling - road
Zigismunds Sirmais, track & field
Toms Skujiņš, cycling - road
Jānis Šmēdiņš, beach volleyball
Rolands Štrobinders, track & field
Māris Štrombergs, cycling - BMX
Edžus Treimanis, cycling - BMX
Dainis Upelnieks, shooting
Valērijs Žolnerovičs, track & field
This year's youngest team member is Ketija Birzule, the 17 year old competing in sailing. Meanwhile, several Latvians will be competing under the flags of other nations: Sanita Pupure (Ireland, rowing), Lāsma Liepa (Turkey, canoe sprint), and Vita Heine (Norway, cycling).
On a different note, the Latvian Rio 2016 uniform collection was designed by 4F in conjunction with Latvia’s Olympics Committee. I love the colors and the skujiņa, but think the cut of the coats and long-sleeved leave something to be desired... what do you think?
To watch the official presentation of the "Rio 2016" Latvian Olympic team, complete with appearance by President Vējonis and his wife, click here (video in Latvian)
To view the official "Rio 2016" Latvian team uniform collection, click here
|SARAUJ LATVIJA! source here|