REGULAR CHECKUP: Jacques Rogge was in town for a look at Latvia’s Olympic efforts.
RIGA - Sigulda has hosted a successful finale to the 2010/2011 Viessman Luging World Cup with the final day’s action taking place under the watchful eye of International Olympic Committee President (IOC) Jacques Rogge. Despite temperatures dipping close to -20 degrees Celsius, sizable crowds turned up on both days with free entry an attractive incentive to brave the cold conditions. Spectators on Sunday could also get a glimpse of IOC President Jacques Rogge and his wife Anne. The couple attended the World Cup as a conclusion to their three day working trip to Latvia as guests of Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOK).
The events in Sigulda over the weekend brought down the curtain on a successful World Cup season that began in Innsbruck, Austria, back in late November. Since then the women’s singles, men’s singles and men’s doubles have taken in eight rounds across Europe and North America before reaching their conclusion in Sigulda. The team relay was also competed for with the Sigulda event the final of six rounds.
Although the overall champions in three of the four events had already been decided, there was still much anticipation around the men’s singles, with Armin Zoeggeler of Austria and Alex Loch of Germany fighting it out on Saturday to see who would be crowned 2010/2011 World Cup champion.
While those who attended the event on Sunday got the chance to see the Rogges, it was the spectators who turned up on Saturday who were given a real treat, with local hero Martins Rubenis finishing third in the men’s luge. The Torino bronze medalist finished with a total time of 1:37.465, 0.467 of a second behind winner Zoggeler of Italy. The 100 points gained from victory in Sigulda was also enough to hand Zoggeler the overall crown. Loch finished a distant 14th in what was a forgettable weekend for the German.
Earlier on Saturday, high hopes had been held for Andris and Juris Sics to finish on the podium in the men’s doubles in their first major race in front of a home crowd since claiming a silver medal in the same event at the Vancouver Olympics. However, it was not to be, with the pair finishing back in fifth spot with a total time from their two runs of 1:24.785, 0.576 of a second behind eventual winners Andreas and Wolfgang Linger of Austria. A second Latvian pairing of Oskars Gudramovics and Peteris Kalnins finished in the top ten, ending their two runs in sixth spot.
First up on Sunday were the women in the singles luge. The best finish for the Latvians was Maija Tiruma, with her total time of 1:25.436, good enough to see her finish in seventh spot, 0.757 seconds behind eventual winner Tatjana Hufner of Germany. Hufner also won the overall crown.
The team relay brought a conclusion to events on Sunday afternoon, with Latvia hopeful of finishing the event with a medal. But it was not to be with their team disqualified after Tiruma failed to correctly push the button at the end of her run, which would have opened a gate at the top of the track to signal that the second person in her team could begin.
Instead, it was the Russians who were celebrating in front of the Rogges, holding off Italy and Germany to take the gold medal with a total time of 2:15:660
During their trip to Latvia the Rogges met with President Zatlers in Riga Castle for a formal ceremony before the couple then toured the Latvian Olympic headquarters, where they met with staff.
On Saturday morning both Dr. Rogge and LOK President Aldons Vrublevskis spoke at a ceremony honoring Vilnis Baltins and the work he has done for the Olympic movement in Latvia. Talking in front of selected media and guests representing various Latvian sporting bodies, Rogge was full of praise for what LOK has achieved in their work at targeting youth sport and the development of ten Olympic centers throughout Latvia.
Discussing the challenges facing small countries at finding enough funding to continue competing with large countries with big budgets, he recognized the similarities between Latvia and his own country Belgium: “We are both small countries so we need to be more intelligent than the big ones.”