Latvian national sport is Ice hockey. Many towns have their own ice hockey halls where local clubs play in two leagues. The passion of the entire nation is, however, its National team and Riga Dinamo Club which plays against mostly Russian opponents in the KHL Eastern European league.
While moderately successful (for instance, in 2002-2014 the national team participated in four Olympic games in a row), Latvian ice hockey players have yet to bring any major medals or cups back from International tournaments, finishing 7th-8th at best. Even in 2006 when the World Championship was held in Riga the local team failed to reach the playoffs.
Such lack of success is likely because of Latvia’s small population: it is difficult to amass a hockey team of some 20 world-class players.
Latvians fare better in individual sports, especially luge, skeleton, and bobsleight, where they won 7 Olympic medals since 2006.
Latvia has no summer disciplines where it would produce good results regularly, however, talents come and go in many of them. The recent star is BMX cycler Māris Štrombergs who won gold medals in two Olympics in a row.
Football and basketball are also popular in Latvia, despite a lack of recent top achievements.
In basketball, Latvia regularly plays at European championships but has never qualified for World Championships or Olympic games after its 1990 independence. It has won European gold medals in 1935 and silver in 1939, but those times of Latvian basketball glory seems to have ended with Soviet occupation. Latvia also has basketball clubs that play in the regional leagues. The main clubs are “Ventspils” and “VEF Riga”.
In football (soccer) Latvia’s only success was a qualification to the European Championships of 2004. Football is especially popular among ethnic Russians; in 2004 nearly all field players of Latvia’s national team were ethnic Russians or Russophones.
Speedway is another locally popular sport (primarily in Daugavpils), and Latvia hosted World championship events a few years in a row.
Novuss is sometimes considered the national game of Latvia. It is vaguely similar to billiard although it is “checkers” (rather than balls) that have to be pushed into holes and the table is square. It has been invented in interwar Latvia and survived the Soviet occupation but lost some popularity after independence as various foreign games became accessible.
2 thoughts on “Sports in Latvia”
I know the 2017 SGP season is over, what I am wondering in 2018 would it be possible to purchase a couple of event T shirts for the FIM SGP meeting held there, and have them shipped to Bakersfield California USA? I was able to purchase a couple of shirts from the Australian FIM SGP meeting and they are on there way to me. Also, would it be possible to see what your shirts looked like this year? I hope to hear from you, and I do live a couple of hours north of Costa Mesa the home of the 4 time World SGP Champ.
Thanks for your time
Carl in Bakersfield California USA
Love this! Thank you for sharing such an insightful article!