May 4 is a special date – a public holiday celebrating the Independence Day of the Republic of Latvia. This date is also important in our country’s sports history books, because on May 4, 1935, the first European Championship, in which the Latvian men’s basketball team was victorious, was concluded in Geneva, Switzerland. Our athletes had many obstacles on the way to great and still unrepeatable success.
The Latvian championship usually lasted until March, but ended earlier in 1935 – on January 12, so that the best players could better prepare for the first European championship in history.
Lithuanian and Estonian basketball players, who visited Riga in the second half of January, came to their aid in the preparation phase. The Lithuanians did not come up with the strongest team, which led to a major defeat – the Latvians won convincingly with 123:10.
In the match against the Lithuanians, the team’s center Rūdolfs Jurciņš scored 41 points, while Jānis Lidmanis, who still holds the record for the Latvian national team in unofficial games or test matches, scored 43.
The Estonians put up a tougher fight – victory 35:18. Jurcinņš was the most productive with 13 points. After the match, Nüler, the coach of the Estonian team, who studied at a physical education university in the USA for two years, gave great praise.
“The game of the Latvian team really surprised me. I didn’t expect such a game from your team. I admire your throwing skills and your pace of play. I can tell you one thing – even the Americans can’t beat you. You played us like you played the last race” coach, in the February 6 issue of the newspaper “Rīts” in 1935. quoted.
At the start of the European Championship they managed to beat Hungary with 46:12 (20:7), then Switzerland with 28:19 (16:12) and finally with 24:18 (16:18). 12) victory over Spain in the final.
The leader was team captain and center Jurcinņš, who scored 23, 10 and 11 points in three games, respectively. Alexey Anufriyev scored 10 points in the first game and 12 points in the second game.
For Latvians, the road to Geneva was tiring. The 36-hour journey had to pass in third-class wagons. Basketball players spent the night in hard benches and luggage nets, some even scattering newspapers on the floor.
“The last part of the trip was particularly difficult. We were tired and had not eaten in some parts.”
It is described in the book “Unforgettable sports moments and stars” by Vilis Čika and Arnolds Šmits, quoting the Latvian national team coach Valdemārs Baumans.
The allocation of state financial support did not go smoothly. Less than a month before the start of the European Championship, the Latvian Association of Sports Organizations meeting agreed that the men’s basketball team should participate in the continent’s first championships.
“At the meeting of the Latvian Association of Sports Organizations (LSOA), it was agreed that the Latvian basketball team should participate in the European championships to be held in Geneva on May 2-4. The newspaper “Sporta Pasaule” wrote 1,500 Ls in the room on April 8, 1935.
After the first victory of the Latvian national team against the Hungarian national team in the European championships in the tournament, the favorite status of Latvian basketball players came into effect.
Swiss newspaper “La Tribune de Geneve” reported: “Latvians are beautiful athletes. They play skillfully, they show top-notch technique. All passes are predicted correctly. Positioning and throwing – excellent. All Latvian players, especially Jurcinņš , – excellent shooters Latvia clearly showed superiority on the first day of the games”, described in the book “Unforgettable Sports Moments and Stars”.
The day before the Swiss basketball players’ fight against the Latvian national team, journalists in the Swiss newspaper “La Suisse” could not spare themselves a lively comparison, describing the great strength of the players of the Latvian team.
“The Latvian team works like a big machine, everything works like a machine. Their method is to control the ball. [spēli]breakthroughs and dribbling – exemplary.”
The tournament took place in the “Palais d’Expositions” exhibition pavilion in Geneva. Approximately 4,000 spectators watched the final match of the first European Championship in history.
In sports, luck is often the deciding factor in winning. This time, the fate of the victory for Latvian basketball players was not directly determined by luck on the field, where the technical and physical preparation of the players was the determining factor, but helped in the draw, in case of loss the team is disqualified, since it is the only color jersey of the Latvian Team.
“The mother of luck smiled twice at the Latvians. When it became clear that the four units had the same uniforms – red shirts – the question of who would keep theirs if they managed to compete was also decided by lot. When they had to unexpectedly beat the Italians (27-17) and face the Latvians, they played their own team against the Whites. It was the Swiss who changed it. Spain suffered the same fate in the final. They too had to change colours, while the Latvians played the entire tournament in their traditional cherry red shirts and white shorts. Such side elements have at least a good effect on the mood and confidence of the team”, events ” It is described in the book “Unforgettable Sports Moments”. and the Stars.”
Two days later, the Berlin high-speed train arrived at Riga station at half past eight in the evening. The station was full of saluters. Several thousand, especially many students among them. The excited crowd took the basketball players in their arms and carried them to the station exit.
In the issue of “Rīts” newspaper dated 6 May 1935, it is noted that basketball should be supported more by creating a sports hall suitable for playing in Latvia.
“The government’s confidence in our athletes was fully justified when it provided the necessary means of participation at the request of the Latvian Basketball Association, which was unanimously supported by the Latvian Olympic Committee. Despite the very unfavorable training conditions, we do not have our devoted basketball players in any suitable gym. It is our honor to name Latvia in the world. This proves once again that we must support this sport as warmly as possible and provide suitable facilities for training.”
Valdemārs Baumanis, the head coach of the Latvian national team after many years, emphasized that the win was deserved: “I managed to find five players who complemented each other perfectly. This is how a unit was created that cooperated equally effectively in offense and defense.” These five players: Mārtiņš Grundmanis and Eduards Andersons in defense, Rūdolfs Jurciņš in center, Jānis Lidmanis and Aleksejs Anufrijevs in offense Latvian team not only won in 1935, but also showed European powers France, Italy with its game. and Spain What is beauty in basketball. Our game was based on the American system, which was taught very impressively by the sports experts of this country who worked in Latvia after the First World War. Here it should be added that the Latvians were talented. The victory of the Latvian team in Geneva was a big surprise for the whole European sport. All the major sports newspapers wrote about us. The competition was also watched by the diplomatic representatives of many countries because the League of Nations was operating on the Neva. Latvian Ambassador Feldmanis said meaningful words to our players after the victory: “What the diplomats of the Free Latvian State achieved in Geneva in 15 years, you have surpassed in a few days.”
The Latvian Basketball Association reported that the heroes of the Geneva wars had different fates. Mārtiņš Grundmanis, Aleksejs Anufrijevs, Visvaldis Melderis, and Andrejs Krisons died in battle, while Rūdolfs Jurcinņš and Edgars Rūja were lost in the labyrinths of control. Jānis Lidmanis, Džems Raudziņš, Herbert Gubiņš, Valdemārs Baumanis and Rihards Dekšinek spent the second half of their lives in exile. Only returning from exile in Siberia in the late fifties, Eduards Anderson lived in Latvia until old age.
In honor of this historic sporting achievement, the feature film “Dream Team 1935” by director Aigars Graubas and producer Andrejas Īkis was released in 2012. The film, which contains minor fictional elements, is largely based on true events.
“The road to victory is difficult but patriotically inspiring – the disbelief and intrigues of sports officials, the challenge and initiative of coaches, met with donations and practical help from citizens.” The movie “Dream Team 1935” can be watched on “LMT Smart TV”.
The article was written in collaboration with “LMT Viedtelevizija”.
Source: Tv Net
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