While Latvia’s Olympians have been allocated €6,000,000 by the government to support Rio efforts, the country’s Paralympians have largely been left with little to no funding. Latvijas Paralimpiskā komiteja has been allocated €250,000, which needs to be spread across all disability sports supported by the NPC.
Latvia’s eight strong athlete delegation in London claimed two medals, with Aigars Apinis winning gold in the Men’s Shot Put F52-53 and silver in the Men’s Discus Throw F51-53. This compares to the Olympic team that same year. The country’s 46 competitors claimed only two medals, Māris Štrombergs winning gold in men’s BMX, and Mārtiņš Pļaviņš and Jānis Šmēdiņš winning bronze in men’s beach volleyball. Apinis sold his London medals in 2014 to fund his Rio qualification efforts.
Latvia’s premiere wheelchair fencer and Rio hopeful Poļina Rožkova talked about the situation last week on Facebook, saying of funding, “[I]f you look at the ratio of investment / results …. Anyway. How so? Figure it out for yourself. This is one country. In relation to the Paralympians, you can judge the country. On the economy, the culture. All results have been achieved not because of, but in spite of the state. Coach without salaries, athletes without scholarships. And in fact, no rooms. To develop the sport – even athletes lead nowhere …. It’s a shame.”
The funding situation appears bad enough for Latvian Paralympians that some elite disability sportspeople have indicated other countries are interested in providing them nationality so they can compete for them. Last year, in response to complaints about the lack of funding for Paralympics, the country’s Ministry of Education and Science responded by saying the country’s Paralympians can go on strike just like the teachers if they do not like it.
Banka Citadele is a national sponsor for the Paralympic movement in Latvia. They are trying to raise at least €40,000 to enable the country’s Paralympians to compete in Rio. People are able to individually sponsor the country’s Paralympic athletes including Rihards Snikus, Edgars Kļaviņš, Taiga Kantāne, Aigars Apinis, Edgars Bergs, Ingrīda Priede, Dmitrijs Silovs, Diāna Dadzīte, Poļina Rožkova, Oskars Gailišs, Gints Jonasts, Ieva Melle, and Uldis Ektermanis. So far, Paralympic equestrian competitor Rihards Snikus has been given the most money at €632 through this initiative, with a goal of raising €4834. Athletics competitors Edgars Kļaviņš and Edgars Bergs have been given the least at €46 each. Kļaviņš is trying to raise €2538 while Bergs is seeking €2920.