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333 Days to Summer Paralympic Games in Rio!

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The Summer Paralympic Games will begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 7, 2016, or 333 days from now. Several athletes from Latvia’s Paralympic team have already qualified for the event, but others still have major competitions in their future. That is why the Latvian Paralympic Committee and the Citadele Bank have launched the support campaign “They Can. Can We?”

On October 9, the Latvian Paralympic team received greetings from Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis: “I am truly delighted about the ambition of the Latvian Paralympic team to take part in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games! The athletes on our team have enormous force of will and very strong spirit, which serves as an inspiration and example for anyone who needs to overcome the most difficult problems in their lives. Latvian athletes have taken part with much success in the Paralympic Games ever since the restoration of our country’s independence, thus demonstrating their talent, ability to work, and major ambitions.”

After nearly four years of intensive work, the members of the Paralympic team are very close to the games in Rio. “As in any sport, the Paralympians and other athletes who are seeking to rise to that level experience both successes and failures, and fans track their work very carefully,” says the president of the Latvian Paralympic Committee (LPC), Daiga Dadzīte. “Among those who have recently achieved a high level of talent, I can mention three women who are new to the team – wheelchair fencer Poļina Rožkova, track and field athlete Diāna Dadzīte, and archer Ieva Melle. I’m sorry for the seated volleyball team, which took 11th place at the European championship and did not qualify for the Summer Paralympics.”

The athletes are all investing major efforts in training for the games, and they need financial and moral support. The LPC is proud of the fact that the International Paralympic Committee, the president of Latvia and the public at large appreciate the work of the athletes and the committee. People are actively involved in the Citadele Bank’s “You Are. You Can” movement and in the new fundraising campaign. “We thank everyone who is responding to our ‘We Can. Can You?” campaign,” says Dadzīte. “The money is needed so that the athletes can train and take part in qualification competitions in advance of next summer’s games, as well as in high-level European championships.”

“I would ask for the people of Latvia to offer the necessary support for our Paralympic team so that the athletes can take part in one of the most important athletic events in the world – the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” says President Vējonis. “Let’s provide financial support so that the athletes from Latvia can take part in qualifications competitions and so that the whole team can take the long trip to Rio and carry Latvia’s name into the world.”

Citadele Bank board member Santa Purgaile calls on people to join the campaign that began in September so as to help our Paralympians to train and take part in qualifications competitions in advance of the games where they will represent our country. “Thanks to the ‘You Are. You Can’ movement in 2012, the Paralympians got the same bonuses as the Olympians did do,” she says. “That is a great improvement in the area of equality, but there is still a system in which state financing for Paralympic training is less than is the case for Olympians. That’s why support from the Citadele Bank and all of the residents of the country is so important, and this Paralympic cycle is no exception. We need to raise EUR 40,000 in donations as part of the ‘They Can. Can We?’ campaign, and we have set up a special platform,, as well as an account for donations. There are special donation boxes at all Citadele branches and at the Citadele Cinema. The participation of all of us is very important, indeed.”

Athletes who are trying to become part of the Latvian team in Rio include Aigars Apinis, Ieva Melle, Poļina Rožkova, Edgars Kļaviņš, Gints Jonasts, Oskars Gailišs, Edgars Bergs, Dmitrijs Silovs, Ingrīda Priede, Taiga Kantāne, Diāna Dadzīte and Rihards Snikus. Snikus is a professional horseback rider, and his horse is called King of the Dance. His trainer, Darja Tihomirova, is also the leader of the Paralympic riding team for the Olympics, and she says that Snikus’ appearance at the Summer Paralympic Games in London in 2012 was the first time that Latvia was represented in the sport. Riding a horse called Chardonnay, Rihards Snikus took 4th place, just missing out on a medal, and Darja says that she is sure that he has grown as an athlete and will do even better in Rio. Rihards is in 21st place in the rankings I his sport, and he needs financing to take part in at least one more international competition. The members of the riding team will probably be announced in February, after which even more serious preparatory work will have to be done. Not just Rihards Snikus will have to fly to Brazil. So will his trainers, the caretaker for King of the Dance and the horse itself.

As has been reported in the past, the Citadele Bank launched an unprecedented programme in support of Latvia’s Paralympians in the 2012. “You Are. You Can” is aimed at promoting Paralympic Sports in Latvia, bringing in new differently abled participants, and changing public attitudes about differently abled people and what they can do. The “You Are. Can We?” campaign that was launched in September this year is aimed at raising EUR 40,000 in support of the athletes who will take part in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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