The Lion King on his nickname, Latvian beach volleyball and his Olympic dream
There are many players on the tour and many nicknames out there, some of them little-known to the public. But probably all beach volleyball fans around the world know the “Lion King”. The man that goes by this name is a European Champion and three times World Tour winner. The nickname dates back to the Olympics 2008, when Latvian Aleksandrs Samoilovs and his partner Martins Plavins defeated Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers (USA) who eventually won the Olympic gold medal later in the tournament. Due to his long hair and aggressive play, the announcer Chris “Geeter” McGee introduced him as the “Lion King”. Being one of the biggest upsets in Olympic beach volleyball history, the match received significant media coverage and Aleksandrs earned his nickname that has been widely used ever since.
Aleksandrs’ father is the founder of Latvian beach volleyball
Aleksandrs originally got started with basketball before his father took him to the beach when he was 16. He started playing competitions and for a few years he was performing basketball in winter and beach volleyball in summer. After high school Aleksandrs had to choose between playing beach volleyball and studying medicine. After winning the 2004 U20 European Championships qualifying for the Olympics, he put the entire focus on beach volleyball.
His father Genādijs Samoilovs is a Latvian beach volleyball legend and probably the first to play the sport in Latvia professionally. It was him to establish beach volleyball in this small country by continuously taking indoor players out to the beach and coaching them. Under his guidance Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Martins Plavins became the first professional beach volleyball team in Latvia. Later Tom and Janis Smedins followed, with the latter one being Aleksandrs current partner.
“My father is super fanatic, he can coach, play and speak about about beach volleyball 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Almost all Latvian players who succeed internationally, go through his hands.
Coaching as hobby and community building
Three years ago, Aleksandrs started a project making his passion for beach volleyball accessible to a wider range of players. Beach Box Camps are organized trips to beach locations for players of all levels. The concept is to practice with famous coaches and players and play beach volleyball in a team uniting people from all over the world. Aleksandrs started the first camp in Egypt in parallel to his training sessions. The recent camp at Mallorca brought together 148 participants from 25 countries.
“It started as a project for the future after my professional beach volleyball career. In the beginning it was more like a hobby. I do not consider coaching as hard work, for me it is a hobby. All beach volleyball players are attractive people, always happy, in a good mood and we are having a lot of fun.
The camps are also the reason why you can usually find quite a big crowd cheering for the Latvians at international events. Former participants become part of Aleksandrs’ beach volleyball community and travel the world to support the Latvians.
Next stops World Championships and Olympics
Brazil’s Ricardo used to be Aleksandrs idol after starting with beach volleyball. Tall, great movements and amazing blocking. Surprisingly, he mentions Clemens Doppler from Austria as one of the most impressive current players. Aleksandrs likes Doppler’s professional attitude, technique and mental strength. Medalling at the World Championships, like Clemens did last year in Vienna, is one of Aleksandrs’ major goals. And of course the Olympics:
“I am dreaming everyday about this. Dreaming to become a better player, improve, qualify and then play the best we can and try to get that medal.”
Learn more about the Lion King at Aleksandrs Samoilovs’s and Janis Smedins’ Website.
- Nationality: Latvia
- Date of birth: April 6, 1985
- Height: 1.95m / 6’5”
- Moscow, 2018, FIVB 4-star, Gold
- Klagenfurt, 2016, FIVB Major, Gold
- Klagenfurt, 2015, European Championships, Gold
It’s cool learning the background of some of these players. It helps make the game way more interactive and you can even root for the players outside of your own country. “The Lion King” is a little out there and makes it sound Disney’ish, but from the looks and sounds of it he definitely is playing like a lion!
Yeah, it is a great nickname. And although Aleksandrs is Latvian, most American beach volleyball fans do know him 🙂
Latvian beach volleyball is a thing. This was news to me. Thank you for writing this article. I love reading about the origins of a sport in a country or region. I will be off looking at more sites about the Lion King and his father the rest of the day if I follow the usual plan.
This is a well written and entertaining article. Aleksandrs looks like the kind of athlete that goes all out and commits to the play and game fully. I have always admired those that can give that kind of commitment. They are usually very exciting to watch.
It sounds like the family is building a solid volley ball player system to produce more athletes and fans for the sport. The links you posted in the article taking us to other sites to learn even more about this athlete, his teammate, family, and sport are a nice touch. Thanks.
Thanks for the nice comment, Paul. Yes, Latvian beach volleyball is indeed a thing. And Aleksandrs is a passionate player and a great ambassador for Latvian beach volleyball!
And the camps are great! Was there, will go again.
Yeah the camps seem to be quite an experience!