If you ask a person from Latvia which is our most sports related city – most common answer will be the city of Valmiera. Why? Many reasons but arguably main started on the 5th of November in 1904 when Jānis Daliņš was born.
Later he will become the first Latvian to win Olympic medal in Los Angeles games in 1932. Silver in 50 km race walking distance.
Studied at Valmiera Real School. After the War of Independence (1918 – 1920), he studied at a secondary school in Valmiera. Along with school and sports, until 1944 he worked in agricultural field in Valmiera parish “Jaunzeme”
J. Daliņš inspired from gymnastics teacher and prominent Latvian sports worker Alfreds Lukstiņš during his high school years. He started with running but soon switched to walking.
First great international success was in 1929 in Berlin when he got silver in competition Quer durch Berlin (“Crossing through Berlin”) in the same competition one year later, he outclassed the worlds recognised masters to take the first place.
He competed in two Olympic games: winning a silver medal in Los Angeles in 1932 but in 1936 he was forced to retire because of the cramps. At that moment he was leading the race.. He was also ready to compete in 1940 Games in Helsinki but because of the outbreak of World War II games didnt happen.
Jānis Daliņš won popularity among people not merely by his great achievements but also as a personality. He remained simple and friendly, never giving the impression of being a world – class sportsman.
After the occupation of Latvia by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on 07.1940 were organized the so-called elections to the People’s Saeima, J. Daliņš was nominated for an alternative electoral list, which the occupying power did not allow for elections. In order to avoid arrest, in 1941 J. Daliņš was forced to hide from the USSR authorities.
At the beginning of the Nazi occupation, he undertook the organization of sports in Valmiera. 1941-1944 was the head of the renewed Valmiera Sports Association. In the first half of the 1940s, he participated in competitions in various athletics disciplines. He also became the Latvian champion in walking during the Nazi occupation in 1942 (30 km distance).
At the end of World War II, in 1944, he fled to Germany. After the war, he became involved in organizing the sports life of Latvian refugees in West Germany. In 1949 he emigrated from West Germany to Australia. He also took part in Latvian public life and sports organization work in Australia. 1959-1964 led the Melbourne Latvian Sports Club.
Jānis Daliņš died on 11 June 1978 and was buried in Melbourne Cemetery in Australia but in 1997 he was reburied in Valmiera City Cemetary in Latvia.
Here you can hear a song about J. Daliņš, it is called “Ak, kaut man Daliņa kājas būtu” meaning ” I wish i would have Daliņš legs” In the 1930s, the song became popular in Latvia and was released on records.