RIGA - Weightlifter/MP Viktor Scer-batihs guaranteed his unique place in Latvian sports history after winning his fifth European Championship in a tremendous come from behind performance.
With the victory, Scerbatihs overtook Janis Lusis, a javelin thrower who won four European Championship titles in the '60s and early '70s.
Scerbatihs, who competes in the 105 kilograms plus category, won the April 20 competition in Ligano, Italy, by lifting a total of 447 kilograms in two events.
On his last attempt, Scerbatihs, a member of Latvia's parliament representing the Greens and Farmers Union, lifted 252 kilograms in the clean-and-jerk, propelling him ahead of Germany's Matthias Steiner, who lifted a total 446 kilograms in the competition.
Steiner had outperformed Scerbatihs in the snatch 's one of two events in the weightlifting competition 's lifting 200 kilograms to Scerbatih's 195.
Commenting the victory, coach Eduards Andruskevics told the Diena daily, "First of all, we were able to plan our exercises correctly. In the beginning we started with 238 kilograms, but then we precisely chose the next exercises according to plan."
The coach did, however, express regret about the performance in the snatch, the more difficult of the two events and the one most likely to cause a lifter injury.
Though Scerbatihs was excited by the win, Andruskevics said that the athlete is focusing on the Olympics, where he will be Latvia's best hope of winning a medal. The weightlifter has yet to win an Olympic gold 's he took silver in Athens in 2004 's a feat which Lusis achieved at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.
Scerbatihs did, however, win the world championship in 2007.
"We're thinking about the Olympics. We're completely sure that Viktors will be the strongest," Andruskevics said.
Many feel, however, that the main contender in Beijing will be Iran's Hossein Rezazadeh, the current world record holder in the event. Rezazadeh will attempt to snatch his third consecutive gold medal in the event.
After China, it is unclear what Scerbatihs' goal will be. Retiring is not out of the question, but in a recent interview with the Associated Press, the weightlifter said that decision belongs to his coach.
"When he says 'enough,' that means 'enough.'"
For his part, Andruskevics said he wasn't sure, but there was a chance he and Scerbatihs, 34, would try to compete in the world championship in 2009.
"But I also want Viktor to get married and start a family," Andruskevics said.
Scerbatihs said he in any case would stick with sports after retirement and try to help procure funds and resources for the younger generation of athletes.