Speed ​​skating legend Lāsma Kauniste has celebrated her 80s and is enjoying her old age energetically

Lāsma lives in the capital, in the Kengarags district, where he is cared for by his son Gints, who, although having a higher education outside Latvia, is currently volunteering for the benefit of the local area.

“I was born in Riga, from Torņakalns – Māra pond was next to us, it was a very dear place for me, we skated on it as a child. I was raised by my grandmother, she also gave me my first skates when I was eight years old. When I was in the seventh grade, our teacher Krišs Matuzels said that the European champion Alfons Bērziņš was training young speed skaters at the Daugava Stadium – there weren’t that many winners with us at that time, ”says Lāsma and remembers that almost the whole class went to training at that time. Alfons was quite strict, and many young people did not like it – in the end, only two girls remained from the large group. One of them, of course, Lāsma.

He started taking skating very seriously at the age of 15 – the first most important competition was the Daugava Championship in the same stadium. The athlete remembers that he traveled abroad a lot during the national team of the then USSR – it is difficult to even name a country where he has not been. The Latvian liked the tulip land the Netherlands the most, where many ice rinks were already installed at that time, while the USSR did not even have any artificial ice rinks.

Taken in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the MEDEO rink. (Photo: from private archive)

“The Dutch loved speed skating, they were especially happy in the harsh winters, when they could skate on many canals. The stands there were always crowded. The queen usually came to all the big competitions, ”the outstanding athlete boasts and mentions with warmth his first coach Alfonas Bērziņš, who was banned from working for a short time because he was repressed. Lāsma’s next coach was Aivars Leinarts, who took him to the USSR national team.

Her husband’s letters are translated from Estonian

Lāsma married the Estonian speed skater Toivo Kaunisti in 1962, who unfortunately passed away in March this year – the funeral was in her husband’s homeland in Estonia. The two got to know each other during the competition and during their lives, often separated due to the many competitions. Toivo has translated what she wrote in Estonian, Lāsma in Latvian, and her husband’s help with the help of a dictionary. After the wedding, Toivo moved to Riga and learned the Latvian language fairly quickly. The two legendary athletes have lived in a married life for 59 years – this year they would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on July 7…

With her husband Toivo and his mother Antonija on the ring road from Salaspils to the Tallinn highway. (Photo: from private archive)

Half-brother in Stradiņi has performed sample operations

“Sport hardening makes me feel good at the age of 80. Twice a day I go for a walk on the promenade on the banks of the Daugava. I get up very early every morning, I like to read books, especially about traveling, I like to cook, I watch good movies. I really liked the series “Emilija. Queen of the Latvian Press” – in my opinion, it is the best domestic performance in recent years, and it also comes into contact with our family. My dad was a psychiatrist – as a doctor he helped German soldiers who were being treated at the Jelgava Psychoneurological Hospital. But someone reported him, and his father was deported, ”Kauniste recalls.

“I used to have a large library, but I donated a large part of the books to Jelgava Psychoneurological Hospital – in memory of my father Hermann Saltup. My two half-brothers have been refugees and have been living in Australia all these years. Half-brother Andris Saltups has helped the Stradiņš Hospital a lot – our outstanding cardiologist Andrejs Ērglis has often done an internship with him. Andris is also a cardiologist, who has often visited Latvia and performed sample surgeries at Stradiņš Hospital, ”says a woman from Rīga with her family records.

With his son Raivo at the fishermen’s network. Taken on a summer vacation by the sea in Svētciems. (Photo: from private archive)

Very tempting Tallinn

“Usually we go to Tallinn, the hometown of Toivo, once a year. In Latvia I really like Cēsis, Sigulda, Valmiera, the cleanliness of these cities, but with Ginta we also go to Saulkrasti, Ādaži, Carnikava – we walk along the sea, there are less crowds. When Toivo was still alive, we also went to the Estonian islands. I understand everything in Estonian, but I don’t speak it, ”Lāsma shyly admits.

“When I started training, the winters were harder with us and the competition took place every or every other weekend. I trained at the Daugava Stadium, also in the summer – there were roller skating, athletics, sports games, most of all basketball, ”the athlete remembers and reveals that this summer he will definitely go to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to visit the grave of her husband Toivo.

Lāsma admits that it is very unfortunate that since the speed skater Haralds Silovs ended his career as an athlete last year, there are no more representatives of this sport in Latvia. On television she watches other sports – like bobsleigh, skeleton, biathlon, basketball. Fan of tennis players Alona Ostapenko and Anastasia Sevastov. The former athlete also has a lot of students, because she used to work as a coach. However, in recent years there has been a lack of communication with them as the coach does not have their contact details. Lāsma Kauniste currently enjoys the cold, yet beautiful and green spring of Latvia, but in summer, as always, there is a desire to live somewhere in the countryside and enjoy the uniqueness of nature.

Photo: from the archive of the publishing house Riga Vilnius



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