Sports in brief - 2012-02-16

  • 2012-02-15

Controversy has again risen in basketball circles in Lithuania, and it is no surprise to see controversial Russian-born businessman Vladimir Romanov once more involved. Prior to Zalgiris Kaunas – a basketball club that Romanov is the majority owner of – taking to the court for their important Euroleague round-of-16 clash against Barcelona Regal on Thursday evening, it came to light that the team’s star signing, former Toronto Raptor Sonny Weems, had written on the basketball blog Hoopshype that he had no intention of remaining in Kaunas to play out the remainder of the Russian based VTB-league season and Lithuanian domestic league season should Zalgiris fail to make it through to the quarter-finals of the Euroleague. Weems claimed that there had been interest from clubs back in North America and that he intends to get out of his contract early to return to the NBA. It was hardly the comment to make just hours before one of the most important games of the season, and when Weems failed to take to the court. Management claimed that the club’s leading scorer was injured. However, rumors were rife that the non-appearance may have had something more to do with his blogging. Romanov has spoken out over Weems’ claims, telling Russian media that there is no way he will be letting his star out of his contract early. He was quoted as saying on that, “I don’t know what Weems is scribbling, but he’ll have to honor the contract and will not leave the team.” Incidentally, Zalgiris lost the clash with Barcelona and are yet to win a game in the second stage of Euroleague. They may, however, still qualify for the final eight should they win their remaining two games and have a number of other results work in their favor.

Latvia and Estonia have both won their first round match-ups in the 2012 Europe/Africa Group II division of the Davis Cup. Facing up against Luxembourg on home turf, Estonia, led by world no. 121 Jurgen Zopp, blasted past their guests, winning all five to move into the next round, where they will meet Poland on April 06. Latvia, led by world no. 71 Ernests Gulbis, who was making his first Davis Cup appearance since September 2010, prevailed over hosts Egypt 3-2. Winning both rubbers on the opening day, the Latvians lost their doubles before Gulbis was able to wrap up the victory for the visitors by winning his return singles on Sunday. In the next round Latvia will play away to Hungary.

Young Lithuanian cyclist Ramunas Navardauskas has claimed the most significant result of his career to date, finishing eighth overall in a strong field at the 2012 six-stage Tour of Qatar. He also claimed the white jersey for best youth rider. Riding for Garmin Cervelo, the 24-year-old finished one minute and nine seconds down on race-winner Tom Boonen of Belgium. Navardauskas’ teammate Tyler Farrar claimed second spot on the podium. In the youth standings Navaradauskas would hold on to see off Great Britain’s Adam Blythe by just five seconds. Also putting in an impressive performance was fellow Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis, who arguably produced the ride of his life, ending the six days one place back in the overall standings in ninth. Kruopis’ best daily finish would come on the third stage when he finished third. Also participating in the race, Estonia’s Mart Ojavee finished 90th whilst Latvia’s Gatis Smukulis did not finish the race after failing to begin the final day of racing.