ABOUT LATVIA

SPORTS

Association football

Association football was the most popular sport in Latvia during the first period of independence (1918–1940).The Latvian national team participated in the final stage of the 2004 European Football Championship. The leading scorer for the Latvian national football team is Maris Verpakovskis. A sports marketing study conducted by international company Mediacom has concluded that football is Latvia's most popular sport – a title it has now held for three consecutive years. The annual study takes into consideration 65 sports activities in Latvia, calculating their popularity by taking into account the amount of active and passive participants in each sport at both a social and competitive level, as well as tracking the amount of coverage each sport receives in the media and attendance at events.

Ice hockey

Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Latvia.[citation needed] It has one pro hockey league, there are also several amateur hockey leagues. Ice hockey has been played in Latvia since the 1920s. Latvia is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), its national team has participated in several World Championships and the 1936 Winter Olympic Games. After Latvia was occupied by The Soviet Union in 1940, its membership in the IIHF was interrupted. Latvians had a significant role in establishing ice hockey in The Soviet Union. Latvia's Dinamo Riga team was one of eleven teams which played in the first Soviet championship tournament in the winter of 1946/1947. The Latvian Harijs Mellups was the goalkeeper for the Soviet Union National team in its first international game in 1948.

Basketball

In Latvia, basketball is the second most popular sport after Ice Hockey.[citation needed] Latvia has a long basketballing tradition. Latvia won the first European championship in 1935 and hosted the second championship in 1937.
In the Soviet period, the Latvian men's basketball team, ASK Riga was dominant in the Soviet League in the 1950s and early 1960s, winning several Soviet league championships and three European Champion's Cups, in 1958, 1959 and 1960. In the 1960 Summer Olympics, four Latvians, Janis Krumiņs, Valdis Muiznieks, Cezars Ozers and Maigonis Valdmanis were a part of the silver-medal winning Soviet team. The Soviet Olympic teams in 1956 and 1964 Summer Olympics had three Latvian players each. The Soviet team in 1952 Summer Olympics had one Latvian.
The women's team, TTT Riga was very successful in the 1970s and 1980s, winning the European Champion's Cup 18 times, more than any other team in any team sport. 2.12 m (7 ft) tall Uljana Semjonova was the women's key player in this period. She was also very dominant with the Soviet team in international games, never losing a game in international competitions and winning 2 Olympic and 3 World Championships.

Athletics

Latvian athletes have achieved medals in Olympics and European/World championships. Most recently Ainars Kovals with a silver medal in the men's Javelin throw at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Staņislavs Olijars won silver medal in 2002, and gold medal in 2006 at European Championships in the 110 m hurdles. Jeļena Prokopcuka has won New York City marathon in 2005 and 2006.
In the Soviet, period there were many great Latvian javelin throwers. Javelin thrower Inese Jaunzeme became first Latvian who won Olympic Games she did it in 1956 Olympics. In 1960 Summer Olympics gold medal won another javelin thrower Elvira Ozoliņa. Latvian javelin thrower Janis Lusis won 1968 Summer Olympics also he is 4 time European champion. Lusis set two world records in javelin throw, 91.68 m in 1968 and of 93.80 m in 1972. In 1987, IAAF nominated him as the all-time greatest javelin thrower in the world. Another javelin thrower won gold medal in 1980 Olympics it was Dainis Kula

Tennis

Since 2006, tennis has become popular sport in Latvia because of Ernests Gulbis's achievements. He reached 4th round of 2007 U.S. Open where in 3rd round he beat world No. 8 Tommy Robredo. In 2008 he lost in quarter-finals in French Open, where his opponent was world No. 3 Novak Djokovic. Gulbis has reached 38th position in ATP ranking. Of course, he isn't only Latvian who has played tennis at a high level. Starting from the late 1980s until the beginning of the 1990s, one of the top tennis players in doubles was Ukrainian-born Larisa Neiland. Partnering Natasha Zvereva she has won two Grand Slam doubles tournaments (1989 French Open and 1991 Wimbledon). In singles her highest achievements are quarterfinals at 1994 Wimbledon and 1988 U.S. Open. Her best position in WTA singles ranking was 58th, which she reached in 1996, while in beginning of 1992 she was 1st in doubles ranking.

Cycling

Also Latvian cyclists are famous in the world arena, lately in BMX. First time in Europe cycling history one country Latvian BMX Elite Riders (Arturs Matisons, Ivo Lakucs, Maris Strombergs Artis Zentiņs) triumphed on European Championships 2006. Maris Strombergs was the 2008 and 2010 UCI BMX World champion and a double gold medalist at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and London 2012.Latvian rider Romans Vainsteins won the elite men's road race at the 2000 UCI Road World Championships.

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