Sports in brief - 2012-02-02

  • 2012-02-02

While most winter world cups took a rest over the weekend, the luge Viessmann World Cup continued to race, with competitors moving to St. Moritz in Switzerland for the seventh round of the season. However, with the event not including a team relay, Latvia opted out of sending any lugers. The Latvians will instead turn their attentions to preparing for the FIL-World Championships which take place in Altenberg, Germany on Feb. 11 and 12. Martins Dukurs, his fellow skeleton athletes and Latvia’s men’s bobsleigh teams begin the North American leg of the World Cup series this Friday in Whistler, Canada. The seventh round of E. ON IBU Biathlon World Cup begins this Thursday in Oslo, Norway with all three Baltic countries expected to be represented, whilst Estonia is again expected to send the biggest Baltic contingent to compete in the eighth round of the FIS Cross Country World Cup, beginning Thursday in Moscow, Russia.

Once again players from Zalgiris Kaunas dominate the starting lineups for the 2012 Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) All-Star game. The game, which pits Lithuania’s top players against the top foreign players plying their trade in the Baltic nation, sees all players in the starting lineups coming from Zalgiris and the country’s other powerhouse team, Lietuvos Rytas. Fans of the league play an active role in the selection process of the teams by voting for their favorite players. Not surprisingly, former NBA player Sonny Weems received the most fan votes with a mention in 11,317 out of the 12,723 votes cast. The most surprising inclusion in the game is Zalgiris’ latest signing Reeves Nelson. The former UCLA bad boy has only been playing in Lithuania for a month and has hardly lit the competition alight, averaging just two points and two rebounds a night, suggesting he is there by name rather than form, or perhaps because of his delightful array of tattoos. The other three players making up the foreign squad are Lietuvos Rytas’ Tyrese Rice and Zalgiris Kaunas duo Marko Popovic and Milan Rakovic. On the Lithuanian team Renaldas Seibutis and Jonas Valanciunas from Lietuvos Rytas will be joined by Mantas Kalnietis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Paulius Jankunas from Zalgiris.

Estonia faces a difficult challenge this week as they prepare for the opening round of the 2012 Fed Cup. The northernmost Baltic State will compete in women’s tennis premier team competition without their star player, world no. 25 Kaia Kanepi, who was a notable omission from the team nomination list to travel to Eilat, Israel to compete in Europe/Africa Group I. Instead, the team will be led by the young and inexperienced 16-year-old Anett Kontaveit, who is currently ranked 588 in the world in singles. Her support will come from 28-year-old world no. 831 Margit Ruutel and 17-year-old Eva Paalma, who is yet to gain a singles or doubles ranking. Estonia finds themselves playing in Europe/Africa Group 1 after failing to qualify for World Group II after losing all five of their rubbers against Belarus back in April last year. It is something of a fall from grace for the Estonian team who, back in 2010, were on the verge of qualifying for the Fed Cup’s elite division, World Group. In order to qualify for the World Group II playoffs, the Estonians must defeat fellow Pool A teams Austria and Bulgaria and then defeat the winner of Pool C, something of an uphill battle with Pool C including Great Britain and home court favorites Israel, both of whom have nominated their top players for the tournament.