City of Champions

  • 2005-07-27
  • By Jody Yurkowsky
LIMBAZI - The Limbazi Olympic Center is a bit difficult to find. And if you didn't have a reason to look, it would never occur to try. But despite its obscure location, it is a place of great importance within Limbazi. This is the place where the Latvian national canoeing and kayaking teams train. On par with other national facilities in the world, this place trains champions and has helped to place Latvia on the international paddling map.

The center on Lielezers has been in operation since the 1950's and Limbazi residents have always been active in the club 's percentage-wise, there are more paddlers in Limbazi than in Riga, Jelgava, Broceni, Ventspils, and Jurmala where other paddling clubs are found. Viktors Zujevs, assistant coach at the center says that in the town of 10,000, 80 or 90 people are active at Lielezers. Taking into consideration that there are approximately 500-600 active canoers and kayakers in Latvia today, the Limbazi center is central to the paddling program in Latvia.

Zujevs says that the club used to be even more active than it is today. Before the Sports School in Limbazi opened in the 1990's, the main sport activity for young people was paddling. But Zujevs points out that since children start paddling at the age of 10 and other sports start them out at six or seven, the number of children taking part in paddling has been on the decline in recent years. But Zujevs is still optimistic and says that their club really offers something unique for young people. "We really know how to train kids," he says.

And their approach has produced champions. Most recently, 24 year-old sport academy student Dagnis Vinogradovs from Limbazi finished sixth in the 1000m C-1 solo canoe event at the 2004 Sydney Olympics. And Limbazi paddlers and rowers consistently take titles in Latvian and European championships. This is a town that has seen its fair share of water sport victories.

So what is the plan for the future? The goal will be to maintain and build the program. And Zujevs is optimistic that this will happen. "Our goal is to continue the tradition," he says. And as he talks about the program and the plans to take it forward, the pride is evident. If determination can produce champions, then Limbazi has a golden future.