Watching Saturday’s coverage of the Olympics, we certainly could have found a Stud of the Day* from the United States: Michael Phelps set a world record in the 400m IM to win his first gold medal in Beijing. Mariel Zagunis, Sada Jacobson, and Becca Ward swept women’s individual sabre, the “punk rock of fencing.” Alexander Artemev, an alternate, reminded us why men’s gymnastics doesn’t just do away with the dreaded pommel horse (and helped the U.S. qualify for the team finals). So why did we go with Latvia’s first Olympic beach volleyball team, Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs (pictured)? Because they made us root against our own country.
Plavins and Samoilovs scored the biggest upset in beach volleyball history, beating gold medal favorites Phil Dalhausser (“The Thin Beast”) and Todd Rogers (“The Professor”). The facts:
• The teams had met only once before, and the Latvians (ranked 23rd in the Olympic pool of 24) were destroyed in 32 minutes.
• To prepare for Beijing, they trained up to eight hours a day on the Baltic Sea — scrimmaging two on six to simulate the kind of talent they’d face.
• Announcers Karch Kiraly and Chris Marlow said all the international players were quaking in their boots at the thought of meeting 6’9” Dalhausser, “the most intimidating player in the world,” at net. Not these two. Whereas most teams serve to Rogers, Plavins and Samoilovs gunned for the big man (President Bush’s nickname for Dalhausser) and made him work more than he’s used to. That’s straight out of Rocky IV, and we love it.
Who was your Olympic Stud of the Day?
* Not just a man or woman who turns us on. (Necessarily.)