The highlight of the past few weeks has been following Armenian athletes at the Olympics. Not just the tumultuous Tokyo Olympics, although we’ll reflect on those two crazy weeks as well.
But first, another kind of Olympics – one so important that even Albert Einstein stepped in. Four Armenian 12th grade students were congratulated by Dr. Einstein’s twitter account (authorized by the late genius’s estate) for their outstanding performance in the 51st International Physics Olympiad. Armenia’s Artashes Gyoletsyan won an individual gold medal while each of his teammates earned a silver or bronze, in the competition featuring over 400 top physics students from 76 nations.
As for Tokyo, after having to wait an extra year, enduring a war and pandemic in the meantime, and the uncertainty of whether these games would even go on at all, Armenian athletes finally had their time to shine.
The star of the first week was Artur Davtyan, who vaulted himself into the finals with unbelievable precision:
He went on to win the bronze, not only Armenia’s first medal at these games, but the first Armenian gymnastics medal ever:
You can see more of Davtyan’s acrobatics in this video from the Olympics website which profiled him as the recipient of the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship. What’s even more remarkable about his performance is how well Davtyan did against athletes with world class training:
Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov also earned a boxing bronze medal. One of his qualifying matches against Javid Chalabiyev absolutely electrified the announcers for its ferocity, as the Azerbaijani came out swinging with everything he had in the early rounds. However, this strategy backfired as he failed to overwhelm Bachkov, whose more measured and consistent fighting was judged the winner. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this 28-year old boxer’s future:
Armenia also won two silvers, one from Artsakh War veteran Simon Martirosyan in weightlifting:
And the other from the “White Bear” Greco-Roman wrestler Artur Aleksanyan, who had won the gold at the 2016 games. He hoped to repeat, however, he was injured in the last minute of his semi-final match but held on for the win. Despite the injury, he persevered into the gold medal match against a Russian wrestler, and while he was not victorious, his performance at the Olympics is something to be proud of.
Karapet Chalyan narrowly missed out on another bronze medal for Armenia due to what some regarded as an unfair penalty against him. Armenia placed 69th in the medal count, ahead of some unexpectedly large nations like Mexico and Argentina. It came just behind Azerbaijan in 67th with 3 silvers and 4 bronzes – of which 1 silver and 3 bronzes were won by three Ukrainians and a Cuban who were recruited by Azerbaijan. Neighbor Georgia claimed 33rd place, in part due to its dominance in Judo, winning a gold and 3 silvers in that silver sport amongst its 8 medals, just ahead of Turkey in 35th .
While Armenia itself did not see gold in Tokyo, it doesn’t mean Armenians did not. Artur Dalaloyan made an incredible comeback from a recent injury to win gold with the Russian Olympic Committee’s Men’s Gymnastics team. In addition, coach Adam Krikorian led the US women’s water polo team to gold, while Brian Goorjian coached the Australian Men’s basketball team to its first Olympic medal ever, a bronze.