I was born on January first, 1985 in small town called Aluksne. It’s that part of Latvia where winters are a real thing and it wasn’t a coincidence that my dad, who was a pro biathlete at the time, met my mom while being on training in Aluksne. My first childhood memory is me trying to stay upright on tiny orange plastic skies – kind of thing that every kid owned in Soviet times but was no use for actual skiing. I could barely walk, but had to try skiing. It was such a big thing in our family back then with the winter Olympics for sort of religion. It was an absolute must to watch races on TV whenever we got a chance and for little kid, it seemed like the whole world stops spinning when there was some biathlon on TV. I think it was there where the first seed of my dream about being a pro athlete one day was planted. I just didn’t know when and how, but I had it in me. I am entirely grateful to my parents for doing this whole thing to me if one can say so.
In primary school, I tried literally every sport I could get my hands on. Skiing, athletics, football, basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey. You name it! I guess it had something to do with my dad being a sports teacher in the local school too. Ironically orienteering wasn’t among my favorites back then. I was dragged to local competitions by my parents who had found a good hobby in orienteering after my father quit being pro. One thing that kept me going was a chance to travel. Those weekends were full of excitement for a little kid like me. We packed our gear, got in a car and headed to some new place. Usually, we traveled within Baltic states, but it was enough to feel like exploring the whole new world at the time. Same time I was training in XC skiing and playing basketball in the local team. We had tournaments to attend and at some point, I had to choose one thing over another. The turning point in favor of orienteering was Riga championships where I ended up winning the silver medal and a tiny thought crossed my mind – what could I achieve if I actually trained for it? I took my first big steps pretty soon. I got my spot in the youth national team and represented the national team in the biggest competitions around Europe. Felt like a breakthrough – from the little town of Aluksne to the World. And it was contagious too. In a sense got addicted and there was no way of stopping me anymore. My father had built this sense of understanding of how things work. Already back then I was able to comprehend how much it might take from me, but I was well prepared. Therefore, I am entirely grateful to my parents for this lesson although it sometimes felt quite unfair and harsh for a teenager.
I continued with decent results as a junior and 2006 was the first year I run for the Latvian national team in World championships. I grasped in as much experience as I could and took little steps towards my dream. In 2008 I got my first top 10 results in World championships. I finished 9th in middle distance race and it was the best ever result for Latvian back then. At that point, my results hit a plateau and a few years later it became clear to me I had to make a big change in my life if I wanted to make it further. I was working for a big healthcare company at the time. It was a great job with good future opportunities, but somehow, I felt I didn’t quite belong. At least not the time. At the very beginning of 2012, I decided to quit my job and pursue my dream of being a pro. I had some savings and a few small supporters to cover one year of training. I didn’t plan much further. That was one of the most inspiring and motivating moments in my life. Almost everyone around me thought I have gone nuts. Becoming a pro athlete at the age of 27, without any major supporters and no contract in the pocket. Some said it out loud, some didn’t, but I could feel it in attitude. And it was very exciting in a way – walking my own path when everyone around me told to turn around. Like invisible force inevitably pulling me towards my decision. I sometimes look back and ask myself – what a heck where you thinking?!
8 months later in Switzerland, I won World champs middle distance gold. It was first-ever World champ’s gold medal in the history of Latvian orienteering and also the first one for Baltic states. I continued championship with winning the bronze medal in long distance which confirmed my place among best athletes on the planet. 2013 was a real test for me. Nothing less than a medal was expected from me and I delivered. I won another bronze medal in long and was fighting for a medal in middle till the last part of the race where I injured my eye and finished in the 8th spot. It felt amazing. Like the whole world at my feet. I had made it beyond my wildest dreams and there was more to it – my first son Jurgis was born in December.
2014 was my last successful competition season. I finished 5th and 10th in European championships and run top 10 results in the World cup stage. I injured my hamstring during the Baltic championships long distance race by stumbling at full speed downhill. This episode revealed an old injury I sometimes felt during my most intense training periods, but it never troubled me too much and disappeared once I took it easy for a day or two. Now it was a real problem and I tried every possible treatment I could get my hands on. Countless strength and core training sessions, stretching, physiotherapy, massage, and medicine. You name it! Eventually, it became clear that going under the knife was my next option. I had my first hamstring surgery at the very beginning of 2017 so I would have enough time to make it back to a normal training schedule before World champs at the beginning of July.
It was around this time when vision about a somewhat unique sportswear brand started to take shape. We had only a concept in our minds and that was enough. We created TRUE STORY for all those who have beaten the odds, achieved impossible tasks, pursued greatness despite unenviable circumstances.
It took me 5 months to get back into my training routines. I don’t even think it was that hard besides I had two personal “coaches” now since our second son Jekabs joined this World early in spring. My first competition was the Baltic championships relay. To my own surprise, I run a really great race. It surely felt like I am back, but it was short-lived. It soon became clear that my pain is back. I got several opinions from specialists in
Finland and it turned out that my first surgery had actually made it worse. How angry was I on a scale from 1-10? Like 20. I still don’t know why people take on jobs they can’t accomplish. Especially when it comes to the health of the pro athletes, but those are questions that will go unanswered. I decided to finish the season early and go for another surgery. Good friends in Finland introduced me to one of the best hamstring surgeons on the planet – Sakari Orava. He is the official surgeon of FC Barcelona and had helped countless top athletes all over the World. This time I was in good hands and the second surgery was a success. My recovery went well and I was back on my feet, running trails of Gran Canaria island by January of 2018.
Two things made 2018 very special to me. We officially established TRUE STORY and for the first time in history World championships were held on my homeland in Sigulda, Latvia. My coach Jari Ikaheimonen was now working with team Latvia and our goal was nothing less than a medal in the relay race. It was 4 years long project and we had really put our hearts into it. Of course, I had my doubts whether I will be able to perform at the level required for a medal. After all, I had 2 surgeries in 9 months and making it back after a second one wasn’t a walk in a park. My confidence grew as the beginning of season approached. I felt stronger during training camps and there were first signs of getting into shape. 2 months before championships I experienced an accident. During one of my easy sessions, a branch pierced through my shoe and found a way into my left foot. Like well 4 centimeters deep. I was treated immediately, but only part of it got removed. Long story short – almost 6 weeks on crutches, heavy antibiotics and another surgery at the end of the whole saga to clean out the last bits.
I run selection races with stitches in my heel. It was like pushing my limits once again. I had to dig deep to make it and at that moment I truly realized how much I am capable of if I put everything into a game. World champs relay went down in history as tightest competition ever with 8 teams in 58”. Like 8,5“ a team Latvia on 8th spot. I was at my limits from the very first step of that race. Safe to say I gave my all and a little bit more. We were among leading teams most of the time and it definitely felt like losing at the time. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable experience for all of us. Our coach Jari, athletes, our families, fans and all Latvian orienteering society. I have run that race over and over again in my head. What could I have done better? Were we just unlucky or was it a consequence of our own mistakes? I could have been a true breakthrough for my brand as well. It’s hard to think of better combo – brand owner coming back after two surgeries, winning World champs on home ground while running in TRUE STORY gear. What do you say at moments like that? It wasn’t meant to be is what comes in my mind. At least not yet!
I let it sink in a bit to find a silver lining to the whole thing. I can’t pin it down just yet, but I know it’s there. The only way to figure out is to keep going. Find a way around all the obstacles that might fall into my path, get stronger with every next one and keep the head up cause there is so much to see and feel on a journey like this one.
Last season has been far from my best so far. I have had to compromise most of my trainings due to injuries as consequences of past surgeries, but I know that it will be the best version of me on the starting line when the clock starts running.
Because this is my TRUE STORY!
EVERY PLACE I HAVE VISITED AND EVERY STEP I HAVE TAKEN ON HOME GROUND, EVERY VICTORY AND EVERY DEFEAT, EVERY CHALLENGE I HAVE ACCEPTED AND EVERY FAILURE I HAVE ENCOUNTERED, EVERY GREAT ATHLETE I HAVE MET AND EVERY LITTLE KID, I HAVE INSPIRED, EVERY DREAM I HAD AS A CHILD AND EVERY GOAL I HAVE REACHED, IT’S ALL HERE