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IG Online in the Baltic States: Riga, Latvia
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IG's John Crumlish concludes his gymnastics tour of the Baltic states in Riga, Latvia, where 2000 Olympic floor exercise champion Igor Vikhrov is cultivating new talents.

IG's John Crumlish concludes his gymnastics tour of the Baltic states in Riga, Latvia, where 2000 Olympic floor exercise champion Igor Vikhrov is cultivating new talents at his Vingrošanas Olimpiskais Centrs, the country's first private gymnastics club.

Vikhrov, the first gymnast from independent Latvia to win an Olympic title, said years of planning and several trips to the U.S. inspired him to open the club in 2005.

"I have been to the U.S. a lot of times, and I know Latvians who run gyms and have Olympic champions, like Yevgeny Marchenko (coach of 2004 Olympic all-around champion Carly Patterson of the WOGA club in Texas)," Vikhrov said. "So in my mind the plan was to build a gym like in the U.S."

Housed in a large multi-sport facility that was built by Latvia's Ministry of Sport, Education and Culture, Vikhrov's 18,000-square-foot gymnastics club pays its own rent and purchases all the gymnastics equipment for its student base, which include boys and girls in recreational and competitive programs. Unlike the nearby Gymnastics School of Riga, Vikhrov's club does not receive funding from the national or local government, he said.

Vikhrov (whose official name in Latvian is Igors Vihrovs) and his business partner, 2004 Olympic vault silver medalist Yevgeny Sapronenko, also have opened a gym in Daugavpils in southeastern Latvia, as well as two recreational gymnastics clubs in Moscow.

Despite the risk of running a private gymnastics enterprise in his financially challenged country, Vikhrov said he is confident that the gymnasts who train at his club can improve and eventually help lift Latvia's international gymnastics profile.

"We're going to try to do something," Vikhrov told IG. "It's impossible to try to make a program like a big country, so we need to make the most of what we have."

IG also dropped in on former Latvian great Yelena Sazonenkova, who said she is very happy with her life after gymnastics. Read more from Sazonenkova in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast magazine.

Read exactly how Vikhrov is planning to help restructure Latvian gymnastics, and more on IG's trip to the Baltic countries, in upcoming issues of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe, click here.

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