RIGA - The Baltic countries have had a successful campaign at the 2012 Innsbruck Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG), coming home with five medals. Taking place in Innsbruck, Austria between Jan. 13 and 22, it was the first time that a Winter Youth Olympics has taken place, following on from the successful summer version first held in Singapore in 2010.
Of the three Baltic nations, Estonia sent the largest contingent, with 17 contestants, whilst Latvia sent 16 and Lithuania six.
Despite Estonia sending the largest contingent, it was Latvia returning home with the biggest medal haul, collecting the complete set with one gold, a silver and a bronze.
Estonia would not manage to pick up any gold medals, but would collect two silvers whilst Lithuania came home empty handed.
Competing in an event specifically introduced for YOG, Valdis Augusts Vasilnoks would be responsible for Latvia, and the Baltic nation’s, only gold medal, taking out first place in the men’s ice hockey skills challenge.
With the number of ice hockey teams able to compete in Innsbruck restricted to five teams for each gender, countries not sending a complete team were invited to send one female and male to compete in a skills challenge.
The skills challenge saw athletes compete in a number of hockey-related tasks to test different aspects of each player’s game. Going into the event as favorite, Vasilnoks lived up to his ranking by coming second in fastest skater; third in shooting accuracy; second in skating agility; first in fastest shot; and second in puck control, which was good enough to earn him 22 points – one clear of Hungary’s Attila Kovacs and two clear of Seiya Furukawa of Japan and Callum Burns of New Zealand.
Latvia’s widest successes came in luge, with Riks Kristens Rozitis claiming silver in the men’s race, finishing 0.101 of a second behind Christian Paffe of Germany, while Ulla Zirne would come third in the women’s event.
In the men’s two-man bobsled Latvia would come agonizingly close to earning a second bronze medal with pilot Oskars Kibermanis and his brakeman, Elvis Kamms, missing out on a spot on the podium by a mere .06 of a second.
Kristens Putins and Imants Marcinkevics finished seventh in the luge doubles, whilst all four racers would combine to form the Latvian mixed relay team. The team managed to produce the sixth-best time out of 11 entrants.
In men’s skeleton Latvia’s Davis Dreimanis finished eighth.
Biathlete Rene Zahkna would be responsible for both of Estonia’s medals, being pipped to second spot on the podium in both the men’s 7.5 km sprint and 10 km pursuit.
Missing two shots in the 7.5 km sprint, Zahkna finished 21.3 seconds behind gold medalist Fangming Cheng of China before returning to the course a day later to race in the 10 km pursuit, picking up a second silver medal, this time losing out on gold by just 9.5 seconds from Germany’s Niklas Homberg after missing four targets.
Two other Estonians to finish with distinction were Kristjan Ilves, who finished seventh in the men’s nordic combined, and Andreas Veerpalu who finished eighth in the men’s 10 km classic cross-country event.
Estonia would also manage eighth placings in both the cross-country mixed biathlon relay and mixed relay.