Latvia, a small central European country of about two million people, will have its representatives in both the women’s and the men’s beach volleyball semifinals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. A day after Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka booked their spot among the best four of the ladies’ tournament, their compatriots Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs did the same on the men’s side. In one of Wednesday’s morning quarterfinals, they eliminated none other than the team of defending Olympic champion Alison Cerutti and his Brazilian partner Alvaro Filho.

On Thursday, Plavins and Tocs will face Anders Mol and Christian Sorum in a duel for a place in Saturday’s final. In the first quarterfinal of the day, the Norwegians went past Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov of ROC.

After losing their pool match to the same opponents in straight sets, Mol and Sorum got back at Leshukov and Semenov in the quarterfinals with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) win. The Norwegians stormed into the match on a 3-0 run and, although the opponents managed to come back momentarily, Mol and Sorum regained the initiative to break away again and win the first set on a four-point margin. Leshukov and Semenov fought back to make the second set much more competitive and it was still wide open at 19-19. At match point, however, the Vikings did not delay the victory any further, with Sorum delivering the winner with a successful spike.

“The feeling is amazing! Now we are really, really happy! We played a real good game today and the Russians also played a really good game. I think we played better than in the pool and that was the difference. We made fewer mistakes,” Mol said after the match. “Fighting for the medal now at the Olympics is just a dream come true, and we hope to bring some medals back to Norway.”

“It was really warm, really tough to play. Also, to play in the morning was difficult, because we always played in the night so we had to switch our sleep routine,” Sorum added. “And I like to sleep! I had not slept this little for a while, so it was difficult. But we just fought hard and played some good volleyball. It’s amazing! Semifinals at the Olympics is huge!”

Mol and Sorum celebrate their country’s first Olympic semifinal on the beach

Mol and Sorum celebrate their country’s first Olympic semifinal on the beach

Plavins and Tocs can now take credit for moving both defending Olympic champions of Rio 2016 out of the way. After defeating Bruno Schmidt and Evandro Goncalves in the first elimination round, the Latvians followed up with a victory over Alison and Alvaro Filho in the quarterfinals, also in straight sets, 2-0 (21-16, 21-19). After 12-12 in the first set, they broke away and never looked back through the end of the set, winning it by a gap of five points. Plavins and Tocs took control of the scoreboard earlier into the second set, but the Brazilians kept the battle burning through the end, which, unfortunately for them, came with a net touch on Latvia’s third match point.

“We are feeling a little bit exhausted. It’s really hot! So it was tough, but I’m glad that we could make it in two sets,” Tocs said. “If it had gone to three, I don’t know... It was tough for the Brazilian guys as well. They made a lot of mistakes, on which we also worked because we knew that some of them would get tired. We had our strategy, we held our side-out, our defence and our serve, so we won.”

“The Norwegians are great guys. They improved a lot in the last years. They are young and everybody likes them,” said Plavins. “I don’t want to admit, but I like them too. We are happy that there are athletes like them and like Alison in beach volleyball and I am glad that I can compete against them.”

The other two quarterfinals, between Germany’s Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler and ROC’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy and between Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan and Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, are scheduled on Wednesday evening, at 21:00 and 22:00 local time, respectively.