Russian Sportsmen of Latvia

Russian Sportsmen of Latvia

Russian sportsmen from Latvia have been champions at the Olympic Games more than ten times. Dozens of Russian Latvians have been world champions in Europe.

The history of mass participation in sport in Latvia started at the beginning of the 20th Century. The second national Olympics of the Russian Empire was held in Riga in 1914. Local Russians also participated in these sports in great numbers. At these prestigious games Lebedev from Riga took first place in the 100 metres running contest.

The next page of this history relates to the first period of Latvian independence. In the late 1930’s chess player Vladimir Petrov (a Riga resident) was considered to be one of the best grandmasters in the world. In 1937 he shared first place at one imposing tournament, beating multiple world champion Alekhin.

Russian sportsmen from Latvia achieved most of their successes in the second half of the 20th Century and at the beginning of the 21st Century. One of the most renowned basketball players in the world is the twice Olympic champion (in the national USSR team), three-time world champion and ten-time European champion, Ulyana Semyonova. This sportswoman has received many national awards, including the Latvian Order of the Three Stars and the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation. Her name is amongst those listed in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield (USA).

Volleyball players Bugayenkov and Selivanov became Olympic champions. Vera Zozulya from Riga became the first Winter Olympics champion from Latvia in 1980. Oarsman Ivan Klementyev and marksman Afanasy Kuzmin must also be mentioned among the Olympic champions. A whole group of Russians from Riga became world champions in acrobatics. Gymnast Igor Vikhrov brought the first gold Olympic medal to independent Latvia in 2000.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s two great hockey trainers, Viktor Tikhonov and Vladimir Yurzinov, worked in Latvia and as a result the Riga team Dynamo became one of the best teams in the world, achieving prize-winning places in the USSR and beating the NHL Club in friendly matches. The high standard of hockey playing in the Dynamo Riga team is a promising factor for future successes. In the 1990’s and the beginning of the 21st Century the national hockey team of Latvia, which had a considerable number of Russian players, repeatedly came in the top ten of the best teams in the world.

Basketball teams from Riga successfully played in European cups during the Soviet period. The SKA team, which was led by outstanding trainer Alexander Gomelsky, won the European Champion cup several times. Ulyana Semyonova played in the women’s team of the TTT, which had repeatedly won the European Champion Cup.

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Валерий Ройтман. «Давай, Гоша!»

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