RIGA - The Latvian Olympic Committee approved the final selection of athletes to represent Latvia at the 28th Olympic Games in Athens on August 15.
A total of 32 Latvian athletes will be participating in the Games. There will be 14 track and field athletes, six swimmers, two gymnasts, cyclists and pentathlon athletes and one Olympian will represent Latvia in weightlifting, Greco-Roman wrestling, judo, canoeing, shooting and sailing.
The three Olympic heroes from the last Games in Sydney, Australia, are among those going to Athens, where they will doubtless hope to repeat their remarkable success. Igors Vihrovs stunned many when he took the gold in gymnastics, while Aigars Fadejevs became a national hero thanks to the silver medal he won in the distance walking discipline. And Vsevolods Zelonijs will hope to better the bronze he won in judo.
Vilnis Baltins, president of the Latvian Olympic Committee, was fairly optimistic in his appraisal of the squad's chances of success. "We have experienced athletes in our team who are highly placed in the world rankings. That's why we can expect good results in these Olympic Games. We really hope for success," said Baltins.
The squad will be accompanied to Athens by a total of 21 coaches, five doctors, as well as a miniarmy of administration workers.
But just in case the promise of becoming a national hero is not motivation enough for the athletes, Chang Gju An, head of the Baltic division of Samsung, which is one of the main sponsors of the Games, announced that any athlete who wins a medal in Athens will also be the proud recipient of a plasma television, a home cinema unit and a top-of-the-range cell phone.
Between them the Baltic states bagged a gold medal each, among many other other medals at the Sydney Games, which meant they won more medals per capita than most participating nations, including, unbelievably, the U.S.A. and Russia. When Erki Nool won gold it the very last of 10 decathlon events, won gold in the very last of 10 w, won gold it inspired the memorable headline in a British tabloid - "ESTONISHING!" Hopefully, there will be plenty more of that kind of praise for all of the Baltic participants this summer.