Latvian Smedins hoping for longer Klagenfurt birthday celebration

Klagenfurt, Austria, July 31, 2016 - For the fourth year in a row, Janis Smedins is spending his birthday in Klagenfurt. On Sunday, he and Aleksandrs Samoilovs can make it a larger celebration than they might have planned.

The Latvia duo reached the championship match of the A1 Major Klagenfurt with a 21-16, 21-18 win over Canada’s Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk and will face young Brazilians Saymon Barbosa and Gustavo Carvalhaes in the last match before the FIVB World Tour takes a break for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Saymon and Guto, both 22, reached the final with a 21-16, 24-22 over Poland’s Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak. The Brazilians are looking for their second win in 2016 after capturing the Cincinnati Open.

The buoyant crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Smedins and he and Samoilovs went on to reach their first final in Klagenfurt. They are seeking their ninth title together overall on the FIVB World Tour.

“It’s very special because every year I have my birthday somewhere outside, not at my home and I need to play, I cannot celebrate,” said Smedins, whose wife, Elina, is also celebrating her birthday. “But together with all the fans, it was perfect. They sang the song and it was very good.”

Samoilovs and Smedins met Saxton and Schalk for the second time in less than a month. The Canadians defeated the Latvians to capture the bronze medal at the Porec Major in Croatia. And the teams’ familiarity will continue, since they are in the same pool in the Olympics.

“We did a little bit different tactics than we did in Porec when we lost to them,” Smedins said. “I don’t want to tell you the tactic but we switched a little bit to see who is better, who is not. I think we will not play like this in the Olympic Games, we’ll change something else.”

The victory enabled Smedins and “The Lion King” to take over the lead in the SWATCH Major Series, moving up from the third place. The SWATCH Major Final will feature 12 of the top teams in the world for men and women in Toronto beginning from Sept. 13-18.

Samoilovs and Smedins also met Saymon and Guto in the Poland Grand Slam semifinals and won in three sets.

“They are experienced and older, so we need to keep calm and be peaceful,” Guto said. “This is very special. It is our first (Major) final in the best tournament. We were waiting all year for this tournament and everybody was telling us Klagenfurt is the best tournament. Now I can say yeah, it is the best tournament.”

In FIVB World Tour gold medal matches, Brazilian teams hold a 3-2 edge over Latvia. Pedro Salgado/Bruno Oscar Schmidt defeated Samoilovs/Smedins at The Hague in 2013, Salgado/Alvaro Filho topped them in Poland in 2014 and Bruno/Alison Cerutti stopped the Latvians in Gstaad, Switzerland in 2015.

The two victories for Samoilovs/Smedins came in 2013 when they defeated Evandro Goncalves/Emanuel Rego in Moscow and in Poland this year when they downed Bruno/Alison.


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