Latvia won the gold medal in 3x3 Olympic basketball today, thanks to a clutch, game-ending two-point shot from Karlis Lasmanis that delivered a 21-18 victory over Russia. It was a great shot, and a great way to end what has been a highly entertaining event that featured fun, fast-paced games in both the women's and men's tournaments. I was already pumped after watching the United States women's team dominate the Russian Olympic Committee to win gold in their game earlier today, and by the time Lasmanis's shot went through to end the men's tournament, I was fully sold on 3x3 basketball being a great Olympic sport. But spare a thought for Ilia Karpenkov, the Russian big man who had to play the whole second half of the game with one functional shoe.
With about five minutes left to play, Karpenkov planted his left foot while trying to play defense, and that caused the entire sole of his shoe to just come clean off:
Karpenkov was immediately subbed out, at which point I figured he would simply put on a fresh pair of shoes and return to the game. But then something horrible and hilarious happened: Karpenkov, apparently not in possession of any more shoes, just taped the busted sole back onto his foot and went back into the game:
After the poor sucker returned to the floor with his taped-up shoe, he had a noticeably hard time keeping his feet under him. Karpenkov slipped a few times on big possessions, and his makeshift footwear played a real factor in Latvia regaining the lead and eventually winning the game.
There are always kinks to work out with any new Olympic sport, and this feels like one that should be easy to address going forward. In 2024, every 3x3 basketball player should have an extra pair of shoes in their bags before every game. Poor Karpenkov just demonstrated that not doing so could cost you a gold medal.