RIGA - As Latvians eagerly watched the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, hoping for signs of a medal, one Olympian hero was busy working, away from the slopes, honing his skills looking towards the next summer games, to be held in 2016.
Afanasy Kuzmin, one of the Latvia’s all-time greatest athletes, is training to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in August 2016.
In the “Big Sport,” Afanasy, a rapid-fire pistol shooter, has been honing his skills for 50 years, gaining numerous achievements along the way. He has won Olympic medals twice – gold in 1988 in Seoul, and a silver medal in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympic Games. He has also been European and World champion in shooting multiple times and has reached and achieved many world records.
Kuzmin emphasizes: “All these achievements wouldn’t be possible without hard work and a lot of practice, and of course financial support.” Unfortunately neither the Latvian Olympic Committee nor the Latvian Shooting Federation allocates funds for athletes. He acknowledges that his trainer, Aleksander Leschinsky, is actively looking for sponsors by himself. “For several years the only financial support has come from Investment Company Maximus Capital and its chairman, Gene Zolotarev, and Riga City Council,” he says. (Mr. Zolotarev is owner of The Baltic Times)
“Maximus Capital has always offered not only material support, but has helped to promote me as a professional athlete and has tried to popularize this sport itself,” says Afanasy. “I hope that our cooperation will be closer in the future, because it is good to know that someone believes in your potential and shows interest in increasing it,” he adds.
For Afanasy, the Rio 2016 Olympics could be the 10th Olympic Games he has participated in and would be a new Guinness World Record, as no one has ever participated in more than nine Games. This is a main motivation for his trying to qualify to represent Latvia in Rio. “Of course, I am always ready to fight for the medals, too,” says the athlete. Despite his mature age, he still is one of the top rapid-fire pistol shooters in the world, and in Latvia there are no others who can represent Latvia at this level. He sees it as his duty.
For Kuzmin this won’t be the first Guinness World Record. He already has one, for his score of 600 points out of 600, in rapid-fire shooting.
To qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics he still needs to earn enough points in the World Cup stages, held in the USA, Slovenia, Germany, China, and the World Championship in rapid-fire pistol shooting in Spain this September. Standing behind the athlete, Maximus Capital continues with financial support and hopes for Afanasy to represent Latvia in the Rio 2016 Olympics.