Toronto, Canada, September 16, 2016 - Aleksandrs Samoilovs immediately stopped when he heard his name over the loud speakers for the first time at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Aleksandrs ‘The Lion King’ Samoilovs,” bellowed Chris “Geeter” McGee, the voice of beach volleyball who is known his animated introductions.
“I had never heard that nickname before,” Samoilovs said, “but I liked it.”
“When he would rise up to feast on a ball with that awesome mane of hair and his unreal hops out of the sand, he looked like Simba the Lion King,” McGee said via email.
In their opening 2008 Olympic match, Samoilovs and his partner at the time, Latvia’s Martins Plavins, defeated the eventual Olympic champions, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the United States, in two sets.
“[Samoilovs] was flying and hammering balls and loudly roaring, and I was calling him ‘The Lion King,’” McGee said. “The crowd was falling in love with his passion and fire.”
Naturally, the nickname stuck.
Samoilovs has fully embraced his nickname. When he is introduced at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals, the announcers play songs from the “Lion King” soundtrack. Samoilovs proudly roars for photos with fans.
Even his young son is a fan of the nickname.
“When I ask him what a lion does, he will roar,” Samoilovs said.
Samoilovs is now partnered with Janis Smedins. The duo won the Olsztyn Grand Slam earlier this year.
“The crowd loves ‘The Lion King,’ and he loves the crowd,” Smedins said. “He keeps the crowd in the match, and it’s more fun that way.”
There is some controversy surrounding Samoilovs’ nickname. According to multiple members of the beach volleyball community, Rogers thought of the nickname before McGee.
“It’s a mystery,” Samoilovs said.