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