Four athletes represent Armenia at the 22nd Winter Olympics opening in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Friday evening. They will compete in two sports.
The Armenian tricolors at the Games taking place February 7-23 will be worn by Shirak region skiers 22-year-old Sergey Mikayelyan, 24 -year-old Artur Yeghoyan and 21-year-old Katya Galstyan. Arman Serebrakian, a 26-year-old Armenian American from California, will represent the nation in Alpine skiing.
Mikayelyan will also be the standard-bearer for Team Armenia during tonight’s opening ceremony in Sochi also to be attended by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
“We have adopted the principle of making one step forward from Olympiad to Olympiad and our goal is to ensure dignified participation of our country in the Olympics, to have our athletes perform better than during the previous Olympics. I think that one day with our strategy we will achieve higher results, and while we were near the bottom places at the last Olympics, this time I think our results will be different,” Armenia Ski Federation Secretary General Gagik Sargsyan told ArmeniaNow, adding that skiing is at the stage of development in Armenia.
Tsakhkadzor, which is one of the best known winter resort towns in Armenia, has a republican alpine skiing children’s and youth sports school, Gyumri has a similar school for cross-country skiing, besides there are sports school under communal jurisdictions in Hrazdan where besides cross-country skiing they also have alpine skiing, as well as in Vanadzor, Aparan, there are clubs and groups at the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture in Yerevan, and in Ashotsk.
Two athletes representing Armenia at the current Olympics in Sochi are from Ashotsk, which is believed to be the coldest region of the country as air temperatures there in winter time can drop down to 40 degrees Celsius.
Sergey Mikayelyan, who will take part in four Olympic disciplines, including skiathlon, and Artur Yeghoyan, who will participate in three skiing events, started to go in for skiing early on.
Although skiing has well-established traditions in Ashotsk, in the 1990s it was rather extravagance in a village that was in the 1988 earthquake-affected zone reeling under heavy social and economic problems.
But in 1998 the athlete spouses Artur and Alla Mikayelyans gathered a group of children and began to train them, taking some of them to a professional level.
“Skiing is developed in our region. We had two options - roaming the streets doing nothing or training in skiing. Still as little kids together with friends we went in for skiing, we made the first steps and became professional athletes. It is a very hard sport, if you can stay without seeing your friends a lot, devoting most of your time to this sport, you will definitely have a success,” says Yeghoryan, adding that still two years ago their team had 35 members, but not all of them managed to bear the heavy load.
Especially young women find it hard to cope with difficulties associated with this sport. Coach
Alla Mikayelyan says that few girls and young women in Armenia go in for skiing today, and those who manage to overcome the traditional patterns of thinking and do engage in this sport do not stay in it for long.
Katya Galstyan from Gyumri managed to cope with the difficulties and earn a sport at the Sochi Olympics.
“It was very difficult at first, but gradually participating in training assemblies, training on professional tracks I got used to it and could easily cope with every difficulty. I never thought, however, that I would get so much fascinated by this sport that it’d become my profession and that one day I would even participate in the Olympics, competing against the world’s best skiers. Skiing has become my life, my main occupation,” says Katya, the only female representative of Armenia at the current Games.
Arman Serebrakian, representing Armenia in Alpine skiing, says that even though he was raised in the United States, he attended Armenian church, school and it is important for him to represent his historical homeland at the Olympics.
“My dream was to participate in the Olympics one day and to show to the world that Armenia also has strong athletes. It is a great honor for me to represent Armenia,” says the Alpine skier.
Armenian athletes have the following schedule of participation in the Sochi Olympics: skiers Sergey Mikayelyan and Artur Yeghoyan – on February 9, at 2 pm to 4 pm local time (CET +3), 2x15 km cross country skiathlon; on February 11 – cross-country race, on February 14 – 15-km race, classical style; on February 23 Mikayelyan will compete in a 50-km freestyle cross-country race.
In women’s competition Katya Galstyan will compete on February 13, at 2 pm to 3.40 pm – 10 km classic style cross-country race. Alpine skier Arman Serebrakian will take part in giant slalom on February 19 and in special slalom on February 22.