Multi-medalists of Latvian Nationals Named to Olympic Team

Latvian national team swimmers Uvis Kalnins and Alona Ribakova were confirmed eligible to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio by FINA.

Competing in her first Olympics, Alona Ribakova will be swimming the 200 m breast. She placed 37th in this event at last summer’s World Championships in Russia with a time of 2:34.69. Recently at the Latvian National Championships she placed first in multiple events, including the 200 IM and the 100 m breaststroke.

This will will be Missouri State swimmer Uvis Kalnins’ second Olympics– he competed for Latvia at the 2012 London Olympics, finishing 30th in the 100 m freestyle. He qualified to swim the 200 m individual medley in the Olympics at the U.S. National Championships in Federal Way, Washington with a time of 2:00.59. Kalnins achieved his personal best in this event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Russia, where he finished 17th with a time of 2:00.39.

Kalnins previously competed for Latvia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, finishing 30th (out of 56 competitors) in the 100-meter freestyle. He was the youngest swimmer to finish in the top 30 in London.

“I am more excited about these Olympics than I was four years ago,” said Kalnins who won the Mid-American Conference title in the 200-yard IM his last three seasons at MSU. “When I went to London in 2012, I did not know what to expect and did not have a very high set of goals. This time around, I feel much more prepared and will be looking at making the top 16.”

“Uvis embodies what it means to be an Olympian,” said Missouri State head coach Dave Collins. “His consistency in the water and his ability to push his body at a very high level each and every day is something I have not personally seen before. Many athletes are able to find short term and even season long consistency, but the four-year cycle of training to make the Olympic Games is only for very special athletes. My staff and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the process with Uvis and look forward to big things for him in Rio.”

Kalnins‘ list of achievements during his four seasons in Springfield is long and impressive. He was a two-time NCAA qualifier and a four-time All-MAC first-team selection, including 2016 MAC Outstanding Senior of the Year. He also earned Academic All-MAC honors three times, was named MAC Outstanding Swimmer of the Year in 2014 and earned CSCAA Individual Scholar All-American distinction his last three seasons. He was a five-time MAC Swimmer of the Week during his collegiate career and completed his career as the Missouri State record holder in the 200 IM, 400 IM, 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle events.

 “It just shows that you do not need to be a part of a top-10 program to be successful,” said Kalnins. “I am a believer that hard work pays off and so do my teammates. Without them pushing me on a daily basis, I would probably have just been a spectator. Overall, I am glad that I can extend the Missouri State name outside the United States and help the program become more recognizable all across the globe.”

The native of Valmiera, Latvia will face stiff competition in Rio when the prelims and semifinals kick off on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Three-time defending gold medal winner and international swimming sensation Michael Phelps is once again one of the favorites in the 200 IM.

“I have had the opportunity to race Mr. Phelps several times, and it has been very exciting,” Kalnins explained. “In my opinion, he is one of the greatest athletes that will ever walk the earth. For me to have had the opportunity to race next to him and take part in his journey has been an amazing experience.”

Source: ozarkssportszone.com