Bobsleigh pilot Oskars Melbārdis with teammates Daumants Dreikšens, Arvis Vilkaste and Jānis Streng win Latvia its second silver medal in Sochi on the last day of the Olympics.  

With only 0.09 seconds separating Latvia's bobsleigh team from the first place holder, Russia’s Alexander Zubkov, Melbārdis made history in Sochi. This is the firsttime Latvia wins a medal in Olympic bobsleigh. Latvia is also the only small nation to ever win an Olympic medal in bobsleigh, the sport being dominated by countries like Russia, USA, Germany, Switzerland etc.

Meanwhile Latvia's second bobsleigh team made out of Oskars Ķibermanis, Raivis Broks, Helvijs Lūsis and Vairis Leiboms finished in 14th place. Both Latvian pilots Melbārdis and Ķibermanis can be considered young athletes for this sport, having 26 and 20 years respectively. This gives hope for many more Latvian victories in the future.

Sochi are now Latvia’s most successful Winter Olympics in history, with Latvian athletes winning two silver and two bronze medals – all of them in downhill ice tracks (skeleton, bobsleigh, luge doubles and luge team relay.

Previous medals in Sochi were won by Martins Dukurs (silver in skeleton racing); Andris and Juris Šici (bronze in the men's luge doubles); and Mārtiņš Rubenis, Elīza Tīruma and the Šici brothers (bronze in the luge team relay competition).

Latvian athletes have starred in bobsleigh even before Latvia regained independence from the USSR: Zintis Ekmanis won bronze in the bobsleigh two-man run in Sarajevo Olympics of 1984, while Jānis Ķipurs won gold in 1988 in Calgary. Jānis Ķipurs also piloted USSR's four-man bobsleigh team in Calgary, winning bronze.

Photo: Romāns Kokšarovs, F64.
Latvian Institute, 23.02.2014