Yourik Sarkisian

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AAP NEWSFEED January 21, 2005, Friday 2:24 AM Eastern Time

Spo: All in the family for the Sarkisians

By Billy Freeman

SYDNEY, Jan 21

Dinner table discussion at the Sarkisian household often focuses on goals and how to achieve them.

Father Yuri and son David know exactly what they want, but the problem is only one of them can achieve it.

Both Yuri and David want to win weightlifting gold at next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in the men's 69kg class and are realistic about facing off against each other.

Yuri, 44, won three gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester in the 62kg class, but has moved up a class in order to compete against his son.

"We want the father and son to fight for the gold medal, which has never happened before (in the) last 100 years," said the senior Sarkisian, who was born in Armenia and began representing Australia a decade ago.

He said he would show his son no mercy if they both make the final in Melbourne, saying his competitiveness would take over.

"This is the sport, it doesn't matter," he said.

"I know (we are) father and son, but you should fight until the last."

As you would expect from an 18-year old, David concedes nothing to his father.

He wants to be the one standing atop the dais in Melbourne, teasing his dad that it might be time to step aside.

"I'm not going to give him a chance to win anyway - he needs to retire," he said.

"In a couple of months I should be a lot stronger so I don't think he'll have a chance anyway."

David is currently competing at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) in Sydney.

At the last AYOF in 2003 he won gold, adding to an already successful career at such a young age.

He said he sometimes had to pinch himself that he was getting to follow in his father's footsteps.

"He's like an idol, I used to always see him go off to competitions and he would come back with medals," he said.

"One day I just started to go down and train with him and now I'm competing in international competitions."

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ABC Online, Australia Dec 16 2005

Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT LOCATION: Broadcast: 15/12/2005

TRACY BOWDEN: The Commonwealth Games are now just 90 days away and for athletes still to qualify these are exciting but anxious times.

One young man bearing a considerable burden is weightlifting hopeful David Sarkisian. If he does qualify at this weekend's national trials in Melbourne he'll create a remarkable first - he'll be joining his famous father Yourik in the Australian team. Armenian-born Yourik Sarkisian is a phenomenon in the sport of weightlifting. A five time world champion, he is still a competitor of enormous determination - even at 44, an age where most of the world's best have long since retired. But sport is filled with stories of the pressures faced by the sons of famous fathers, and young David Sarkisian clearly carries the weight of great expectations. Geoff Hutchison reports.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: It's Sunday afternoon and Yourik Sarkisian is serving up some Armenian hospitality and Siberian vodka to family and friends. This is a rare day of rest and indulgence. For every other day of the week, Yourik Sarkisian and his 18-year-old son, David, bear a considerable burden. Tell me about the workload, David. How great is it?

DAVID SARKISIAN, WEIGHTLIFTER: Basically I do two trainings a day, about six hours and then we'll have a bit of - sometimes I get physiotherapy done on my knees and stuff or we use a sauna. Basically it's a full-time job. But we're probably lifting about 20 tonnes a day.

YOURIK SARKISIAN, WEIGHTLIFTER: When I'm lifting I can't see anybody.

If you put my family in front of me, two metres, my girlfriend, some beautiful girls, I can't see at this moment. I don't listen to anybody, I don't see anything, I look at the middle of the bar and I'm not thinking.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: It might be kinder to call Yourik Sarkisian single minded but it would be more accurate to call him obsessive. For not only is he, at 44 years of age, the oldest former world weightlifting champion still competing, his hunger for records and medals is as great as it was 25 years ago when as a 19-year-old he won a silver medal for the Soviet Union at the Moscow Olympics.

YOURIK SARKISIAN: First, this is the men's sport, second this is the power sport, you know, and this is not with everybody else, this is only tough people, you know.

SAM COFFA, PRESIDENT, AUST WEIGHTLIFTING FED: He's not only focused, he is irrepressible. He just does not understand why the whole world doesn't do weightlifting. That's the sort of person he is. He's got a very infectious nature and he just inspires you at times. He's a pain in the rear butt other times, but he's a terrific ambassador.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: The archive of Yourik Sarkisian's early career tells a story of great success overseen by a stern Soviet bureaucracy. He first competed in Australia in 1985 and remembers his team doctor being a man of limited medical expertise, primarily because he wasn't a doctor at all, he was a KGB agent. Yourik Sarkisian returned to Melbourne for the World Championships in 1993, this time representing Armenia, and so liked what he saw he decided to make Australia home.

Seven years later he was still good enough to hold the bar high at Sydney, and two years later won another three gold medals at the Manchester Commonwealth Games at the age of 41. And all the while this irrepressible, driven man was nurturing another ambition - for his son David to follow him into the limelight. Even as a nine-year-old, David Sarkisian was being hothoused.

DAVID SARKISIAN: I want to hopefully be an - at least Olympic champion. That's the main thing that I do want, because my dad missed out, he got a second. I want that one gold and that's it.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: When Australia's new Commonwealth Games uniforms were unveiled last week, David Sarkisian modelled them alongside established team members like Brooke Hanson and Matt Welsh, but he still has to earn his place at trials in Melbourne this weekend. He should be good enough to qualify in the 69 kilogram division, but competition will be intense.

DAVID SARKISIAN: I feel pressure from everyone. I feel pressure, like right now, right at this moment, I feel pressure from you guys coming. I must qualify, I must do good and must try to get a medal, you know. It's pressure from everyone. The whole country is on you, you've got to try and do good.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Where's the fun in that?

DAVID SARKISIAN: When you did good and everyone is cheering you on.

Excitement is after the comp.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Watch the Sarkisian men in the gym labouring under their loads and refining the technique that must not fail them, you can sense the older man's intensity as he tries to hold back the years. You also see his frustration at his son, who brings power to the mat, but no sense yet of the grim commitment required to achieve greatness. But David Sarkisian has time on his side. His father doesn't. Are there times when you're too hard on him?


GEOFF HUTCHISON: Because he's not you.

YOURIK SARKISIAN: I know. It's very hard for him. Much pressure for him. Sometimes I'm asking myself, Yourik, what are you doing? He's your son, you know.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Have there been times when you've said, "Dad, I'm not you."

DAVID SARKISIAN: Yes. Actually we do that a lot. When I'll be lifting I'll be like, "I'm tired today." He'll be like, "I'm not." I'll be like, "This is me. I'm tired."

YOURIK SARKISIAN: You're my son, you're my blood. Whatever I do, you should be doing. Understand? Hands. Go!

GEOFF HUTCHISON: The Sarkisians are small men with straight backs and incredible strength. There is a close bond here, but fragility too.

Ask Yourik when he will retire and he says never. Ask him how he will cope if David doesn't achieve greatness and you may as well have plunged a knife into his heart. You can't imagine him not competing?

YOURIK SARKISIAN: No. I never think one second - if you tell me, "Yourik, one second think," I can't think this. Please, don't say me this question. It's very hard for me.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: I understand, because...

YOURIK SARKISIAN: He's my power now. He's my power for the Games.

SAM COFFA: I think I worry about that, I must say. I think he's very young and obviously a great prospect, but yes, I think partly the will to emulate the father's, you know, conquests on the field of sport, but importantly the feeling that he's not letting the father down or the family down or the name down or whatever. So all of those must play a part and I just hope it doesn't get to him, you know, that he's allowed to be his own person and that he will continue to grow with the sport and become just as good if not better than his father.

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