Baltic athletes ready for Olympics

  • 2012-07-11
  • By Jared Grellet

LONDON CALLING: An eventful year for the UK includes the upcoming summer Olympic extravaganza.


Number of Summer Olympics Appearances: Nine.
Number of Medals Won: 17. Two gold, 11 silver and four bronze. This statistic does not include medals won by Latvian athletes under the Soviet Union.
Most Successful Olympics: Athens 2004 (four silver medals).
Most Successful Olympic Athletes: Ivans Klementjevs (Silver, Men’s C-1 1000 meters canoeing, Barcelona 1992; Silver, Men’s C-1 1000 meters canoeing, Atlanta 1996), and Viktor Scerbatihs (Silver, Men’s super heavyweight weightlifting, Athens 2004; Bronze, Men’s super heavyweight weightlifting, Beijing 2008).
Most Appearances by a Latvian at the Olympics: Afanasijs Kuzmins, eight. The shooter represented the Soviet Union three times and Latvia five times, winning a gold medal for the Soviet Union in 1988 and a silver medal for Latvia in 1992. This summer will mark his ninth appearance.

Latvian Olympic Squad 2012
Athletes: Ronalds Arajs, 100m; Dmitrijs Jurkevics, 1,500m; Igors Kazakevics, 50km walk; Janis Leitis, 400m; Aris Rumbenieks, 20km walk; Valerijs Zolnerovics, marathon; Mareks Arents, pole vault; Ainars Kovals and Zigismunds Sirmais, javelin throw; Igors Sokolovs, hammer throw; Maris Urtans, shot put; Vadims Vasilevskis, javelin throw; Edgars Erins, Decathlon; Jelena Celnova, marathon; Polina Jelizarova, 3,000m steeplechase; Agnese Pastare, 20km walk; Lauma Griva and Ineta Radevica, long jump; Lina Muze, Madara Palameika and Sinta Ozolina-Kovala, javelin throw; Aiga Grabuste and Laura Ikauniece, heptathlon.
Canoeing: Aleksejs Rumjancevs and Krists Straume, men’s K-2 200m
Cycling: Aleksejs Saramotins, men’s road race; Maris Strombergs, Edzus Treimanis and Rihards Veide, men’s BMX; Sandra Aleksejeva, women’s BMX.
Gymnastics: Dmitrijs Trefilovs, all-around.
Judo: Konstantins Ovcinnikovs, men’s -81kg; Jevgenijs Borodavko, men’s -100kg.
Modern Pentathlon: Deniss Cerkovskis, men’s; Jelena Rublevska, women’s.
Shooting: Afanasijs Kuzmins, 25m rapid fire pistol.
Swimming: Uvis Kalnins, 100m freestyle; Gabriele Nikitina, 50m freestyle.
Table tennis: Matiss Burgis, men’s singles.
Beach Volleyball: Martins Plavins with Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs with Ruslans Sorokins, men’s.
Weightlifting: Arturs Plesnieks, men’s -105kg
Wrestling: Armands Zvirbulis, men’s freestyle -84kg; Anastasija Grigorjeva -63kg.

Top medal hopefuls
Having won the inaugural gold medal in BMX at the previous summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Maris Strombergs holds Latvia’s best chances of standing upon a podium in London. Despite being disqualified from the final of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) BMX world championships in Great Britain back in May, the 25-year-old will still be considered one of the main threats in the field come Aug. 10 when BMX reaches its final day of racing.
With a European gold and a world championship bronze to her name, long-jumper Ineta Radevica knows how to step it up on the biggest of stages and this summer presents the former playboy model with the biggest stage of them all. Virtually coming from nowhere to claim gold at the European Championships in 2010 following a long stint on the sidelines to give birth to her son Mark, the 30-year-old then backed it up a year later with a bronze at the World Championships. Now all she needs to go out on a high is an Olympic medal to complete the collection. The women’s long-jump takes place on Aug. 7 and 8.

Who to keep an eye on
Having recently picked up a third placing in the women’s heptathlon at the European Championship in Helsinki, Finland, Laura Ikauniece looks ready to dethrone Latvia’s current number one female heptathlete, Aiga Grabuste, and push for a top-ten finish in London. At just 20 years of age, Ikauniece is sure to relish the opportunity to perform in the sports’ biggest event and will be stronger for the experience in the future.
Not too many Olympic fans will be racing to watch the women’s freestyle wrestling, but for Latvians, it is an event well worth keeping an eye on. Latvia of late has tended to surprise with one unexpected medal at each Olympics, and in London, it could be Anastasija Grigorjeva claiming it. Twice finishing on the podium at the European Championships, the 22-year-old also recorded a top-16 finish at the 2011 World Wrestling Championships. With a favorable draw come Aug. 8 when the women’s 63kg freestyle event takes place, Grigorjeva could be a solid outside chance of wrestling her way onto the podium.

Number of Summer Olympics Appearances: Ten.
Number of Medals Won: 47. Nine gold, eight silver, 14 bronze. This statistic does not include medals won by Estonian athletes under the Soviet Union.
Most Successful Olympics: Berlin, 1936 (Two golds, two silver and three bronze).
Most Successful Olympic Athlete: Kristjan Palusalu (Gold, Men’s Greco-Roman heavyweight wrestling, Berlin, 1936; Gold, Men’s Freestyle Heavyweight wrestling, Berlin, 1936).
Most Appearances by an Estonian at the Olympics: Juri Jaanson, six. The rower has represented the Soviet Union once and Estonia five times, winning silver medals in the single sculls in Athens in 2004 and the doubles sculls in Beijing in 2008.

Estonia Olympic Squad 2012
Archery: Reena Parnat, women’s individual.
Athletics: Marek Niit, 200m; Rasmus Magi, 400m hurdles; Mart Israel, Aleksander Tammert and Gerd Kanter, discuss throw; Risto Matas, javelin throw; Raigo Toompuu, shot put; Mikk Pahapill, decathlon; Evelin Talts, marathon; Anna Illjustsenko, high jump; Grit Sadeiko, heptathlon.
Badminton: Raul Must, men’ singles.
Cycling: Rene Mandri, men’ road race; Grete Treier, women’ road race.
Fencing: Nikoloa Novosjolov, men’ individual epee.
Judo: Martin Pada, men’ +100kg.
Rowing: Geir Suursild and Juri-Mikk Udam, double sculls; Tonu Endrekson, Andrei Jamsa, Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo, quadruple sculls.
Sailing: Johannes Ahun RS:X; Karl-Martin Rammo, laser; Deniss Karpak, Finn; Ingrid Puusta; RS:X; Anna Pohlak, laser radial.
Shooting: Anzela Voronova, women’s 50m rifle 3 positions.
Swimming: Martin Liivamagi, 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley; Triin Aljand, 50m freestyle.
Tennis: Kaia Kanepi, women’s singles.
Wrestling: Ardo Arusaar, men’s Greco-Roman wrestling - 96kg; Heiki Nabi, men’s Greco-Roman wrestling - 120kg.

Top medal hopefuls
Reigning Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter is fresh off winning silver at the European Championships in Helsinki, Finland and will now be looking to go one better on that result when the remainder of the world’s top discus throwers enter the fray for qualification to the final on Aug. 6. At 33, Kanter’s recent good form shows that one of Estonia’s most decorated athletes is showing no sign of ageing. Kanter’s biggest threat in London will come from the gold medallist in Finland, Germany’s Robert Harting.
Competing in one of the Olympics’ oldest surviving sports, fencer Nikolai Novosjolov presents one of Estonia’s strongest medal prospects. A practitioner of the epee class, the 2010 world champion remains one of the most respected fencers currently competing. Knocked out in the quarter-finals of last year’s world championship, the 32-year-old will now be looking to make amends on Aug. 1.

Who to keep an eye on
Sitting out this year’s Wimbledon in order to be properly ready for the Olympics, Kaia Kanepi has been one of the most in-form tennis players on the women’s circuit this year and is in a much stronger position than she was in her previous two Olympic appearances to make a genuine claim for a podium finish. Having this year shown an ability to knock over world top-ten opponents, 27-year-old Kanepi is guaranteed a strong following from her home nation. The women’s singles begin on July 28, with the medal matches set to take place on Aug. 4.
With regular appearances on the podium at multiple European judo championships, London 2012 may present the last chance that 33-year-old judoka, Martin Padar, has of claiming an Olympic medal. Making the round of 16 in the +100kg class in Beijing, 2008, Padar will need to be on his best form in London to hold off stiff competition from Asia and South America. Padar competes on Aug. 3. 

Next Edition: Jared Grellet will finish his Olympic preview with an extended look at the Lithuanian team and a summary of Estonian cyclist Rein Taaramae’s quest to claim the white jersey at The Tour de France.