The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Latvia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Latvian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 6,025 Athletes, 31 of which were born in Latvia. This makes Latvia the birth place of the 36th most number of Athletes behind South Africa, and New Zealand.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Latvian Athletes of all time. This list of famous Latvian Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Latvian Athletes.

Photo of Jānis Lūsis

1. Jānis Lūsis (1939 - 2020)

With an HPI of 58.97, Jānis Lūsis is the most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages on wikipedia.

Jānis Lūsis (19 May 1939 – 29 April 2020) was a Latvian track and field athlete who competed in javelin throw.

Photo of Inese Jaunzeme

2. Inese Jaunzeme (1932 - 2011)

With an HPI of 54.72, Inese Jaunzeme is the 2nd most famous Latvian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Inese Jaunzeme (21 May 1932 – 13 February 2011) was a Latvian javelin thrower who won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics.Jaunzeme placed third at the Soviet Union Championships in 1956, earning herself a place on the Soviet Olympic team for the 1956 Olympics. She set an Olympic record in the first round of the event and went on to improve her mark twice more, ending up with a winning throw of 53.86 metres. This made her the first Latvian Olympic champion. She was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1957 in recognition of her achievement and was selected as the Latvian athlete of the year in 1956 and 1957.Jaunzeme was the Latvian champion in the javelin in 1952, 1956, 1958 and 1960, and placed second at the 1957 World University Games. In 1960, she graduated from the Riga Medical Institute and retired from competitions. She worked in the fields of traumatology and plastic surgery, and defended a PhD in 1969. Since 1970 she was an orthopedics professor at the Riga Medical Institute. From 1999 until her death in 2011 she headed the Latvian Olympians Association.A street in Riga (Ineses Jaunzemes iela) was named after her in August 2023.

Photo of Alfred Neuland

3. Alfred Neuland (1895 - 1966)

With an HPI of 53.83, Alfred Neuland is the 3rd most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Alfred Karl Neuland (10 October 1895 – 16 November 1966) was an Estonian weightlifter. He competed in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics and won a gold and a silver medal, respectively, becoming the first Olympic gold medalist from Estonia. He won a world title in 1922, and set three ratified world records in 1920–23: one in the snatch and two in the clean and jerk.Born in Walk (Valga), Governorate of Livonia Neuland studied in Riga, Latvia, and Saint Petersburg, Russia. He took up weightlifting relatively early, and placed second at the Russian championships in 1913 and 1914; he won the Russian lightweight title in 1915 and middleweight title in 1916. Neuland then fought in World War I and in the Estonian War of Independence, and after demobilization he won Estonian weightlifting titles in 1921, 1923 and 1924. After that he retired from competitions and worked as a businessman, weightlifting coach and referee in his hometown of Valga from 1921 to 1940. From 1950 to 1955, Neuland headed the Estonian Experimental Soft Drinks Factory in Tallinn. In 1995 a monument in his honor was installed in Valga, and since 2000 an annual memorial weightlifting tournament has been held there.

Photo of Jānis Daliņš

4. Jānis Daliņš (1904 - 1978)

With an HPI of 48.38, Jānis Daliņš is the 4th most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Jānis Daliņš (5 November 1904 – 11 June 1978) was a Latvian race walker. Competing in the 50 km event he won a silver medal at the 1932 Olympics, becoming the first athlete to win an Olympic medal competing for Latvia. He also won the 1934 European title and set seven world records in the 1930s. At the 1936 Olympics he led the race at 30 km, but abandoned the race due to a leg injury.

Photo of Afanasijs Kuzmins

5. Afanasijs Kuzmins (b. 1947)

With an HPI of 46.89, Afanasijs Kuzmins is the 5th most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Afanasijs Kuzmins (born 22 March 1947) is a Latvian shooter who won two Olympic medals in the 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol event; gold at the 1988 for the USSR and silver at the 1992 Summer Olympics for Latvia. He also won the 1986 World Championship in 25 m Standard Pistol. Kuzmins trained at the Armed Forces sports society in Riga. He competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics and, by receiving wild card, competed also in the 2008 Summer Olympics. At the age of 61 Kuzmins finished 13th overall in his eighth Olympic appearance. No other shooter has appeared at eight Olympics; four have appeared at seven Olympics. Aged 65, he competed at his ninth Olympic Games at the 2012 Summer Olympics finishing 17th.

Photo of Dainis Kūla

6. Dainis Kūla (b. 1959)

With an HPI of 46.20, Dainis Kūla is the 6th most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Dainis Kūla (born 28 April 1959 in Tukums, Latvian SSR) is a Latvian former javelin thrower who represented the Soviet Union at the international level for most of his career. He is most famous for controversially winning the gold medal in men's javelin throw at the 1980 Summer Olympics, becoming the second Latvian to achieve this (after Jānis Lūsis). He is also a World Championship bronze medalist, a three-time Soviet Champion and a two-time Universiade champion.

Photo of Ursula Donath

7. Ursula Donath (b. 1931)

With an HPI of 44.53, Ursula Donath is the 7th most famous Latvian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Ursula Donath (née Jurewitz, later Brehme, born 30 July 1931) is an athlete from East Germany who specialized in the 400 metres and 800 metres. She was born in Saldus, Latvia.Her biggest achievement came at the 1960 Summer Olympics, where she competed for the United Team of Germany. She won the bronze medal in the 800 metres.Donath was also a prolific winner at the World Student Games. At the 1954 edition she won the 400 and 800 metres. At the 1955 edition she won the 400 metres with a bronze medal in the 800 metres, while the 1957 edition brought her a silver medal in the 400 and gold in the 800 metres.Donath won the East German national title in 400 metres, representing the club SC Chemie Halle. This was the inaugural national 400 metres competition. She was even more prolific in the East German cross-country championships, which she won in 1951 (inaugural), 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1960. During these years, Donath also helped SC Chemie Halle win the club competition in 1957, 1960 and 1961.

Photo of Juris Silovs

8. Juris Silovs (1950 - 2018)

With an HPI of 44.16, Juris Silovs is the 8th most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Juris Silovs (Russian: Силов, Юрий Викентьевич; 30 August 1950 – 28 September 2018) was a Latvian athlete from Krāslava who competed for Soviet Union from 1970 til 1978, mainly in the 100 metres. He trained at the VSS Vārpa in Riga.

Photo of George Gulack

9. George Gulack (1905 - 1987)

With an HPI of 43.02, George Gulack is the 9th most famous Latvian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

George Julius Gulack (May 12, 1905 – July 28, 1987) was an American gymnast and Olympic champion, and was involved in gymnastics administration for both the American Athletic Union and the Olympic Committee. He competed at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles where he received a gold medal on the rings.

Photo of Inta Kļimoviča

10. Inta Kļimoviča (b. 1951)

With an HPI of 42.08, Inta Kļimoviča is the 10th most famous Latvian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Inta Kļimoviča (born 14 December 1951) is a Soviet Latvian athlete who competed mainly in the 400 metres. Born Inta Drēviņa, Kļimoviča trained at VSS Varpa in Riga. She competed for the USSR in the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the 4 x 400 metres where she won the bronze medal with her teammates Lyudmila Aksyonova, Natalya Sokolova and Nadezhda Ilyina.

People

Pantheon has 35 people classified as Latvian athletes born between 1895 and 1998. Of these 35, 29 (82.86%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Latvian athletes include Afanasijs Kuzmins, Dainis Kūla, and Ursula Donath. The most famous deceased Latvian athletes include Jānis Lūsis, Inese Jaunzeme, and Alfred Neuland. As of April 2024, 4 new Latvian athletes have been added to Pantheon including Inta Kļimoviča, Vera Zozulya, and Baiba Bendika.

Living Latvian Athletes

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Deceased Latvian Athletes

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Newly Added Latvian Athletes (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 5 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.