Plavins and Smedins win in first match since

Stare Jablonki, Poland, August 16, 2012: London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallists Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins enjoyed a mixed return to action on Thursday, at the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam. The Latvian pair won their opening match against compatriots Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins 21-18, 21-15. However, they slipped to a 21-15, 11-21, 15-13 loss to Austrians Daniel Mullner and Jorg Wutzl in their second match.

“In the first match we were very good, but when we started the second we were very tired and didn’t jump so well,” Plavins said. “We’re not used to it. The last three weeks at the Olympics we had one match a day and then the next day off, so we are not used to having two matches a day.”

Plavins and Smedins’ bronze was only one of two that Latvian athletes won at London 2012 and the country’s first medal of the Games. It was such a popular moment in their homeland that Latvian President Andris Berzins phoned through his congratulations as the pair was leaving court. They returned home for two days following the Olympic Games’ closing ceremony where they, and the BMX gold medallist Marias Strombergs, were feted as national heroes.

“We went home for two days. It was crazy with all the media and we had no time to practice,” Plavins added. “Nobody was expecting us to win a medal, so the reaction was great. Everyone has come up to shake our hands and say congratulations.

“There were a lot of people there (at the airport) and they carried us to our car. It was a limousine Hummer and ‘Plavins and Smedins, bronze medallists,’ was written on the side. When we came home it was unbelievable.”

Also on Thursday Sean Rosenthal and Jacob Gibb of the USA put the disappointment of exiting the Olympic Games to Plavins and Smedins at the quarterfinal stage to win their first two matches at Stare Jablonki. The FIVB SWATCH World Tour leaders lost the first set in their opening match, but recovered to defeat Ukraine’s Sergiy Popov and Valeriy Samoday 17-21, 21-18, 15-9. They then needed another three sets to beat Italy’s Paolo and Matteo Ingrosso 18-21, 21-14, 15-10.

“After the defeat in the Olympics we had to sit around and think about it for about a week, whereas on the World Tour you are right back out there in a couple of hours,” Rosenthal said. “Latvia played really good in that game. Obviously it means a lot more to yourself, family, friends and your country, but in the main part it is another tournament.

“Now we are playing for a points’ world title and we are really focused and glad to be winning some matches.”

Olympic silver medallists and number one seeds Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti, and the 2011 tournament winners Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser also won both their matches on the opening day of the men’s main draw. The Mazury Orlen Grand Slam is the ninth of nine mixed gender tournaments on the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour and the final men’s tournament of the year. The winning side will leave with the largest share from a pot of $300,000 per gender. —- FIVB

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