Albert Azaryan

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Albert_Azaryan&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Albert Azaryan Mars symbol.svg
Albert Azaryan stamp.jpg
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Name in Armenian Ալբերտ Ազարյան
Birthplace Gharakilisa
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Birth date 11 February 1929
Lived in Vanadzor, Yerevan
Languages Armenian, Russian
Ethnicities Armenian
Dialects Eastern Armenian

Albert Azaryan (Armenian: Ալբերտ Ազարյան; born February 11, 1929) is a former Soviet Armenian artistic gymnast who competed internationally representing the Soviet Union. He is the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Champion on the still rings. Azaryan is the first gymnast to become an Olympic Champion in Rings twice, a feat that Akinori Nakayama would accomplish twelve years later and that no one else has matched since. He is the first person to do one of the rings most famous variations of the Iron Cross called the Azaryan Cross (not to be confused with the Azarian Roll to Cross), which incorporates a quarter turn to the side.

Early life

Azaryan was born on February 11, 1929, in Gharakilisa, Transcaucasian SFSR. His father died when he was 14. Azaryan had to leave school and work as an ironsmith to support his family.[1] When he was 17, a group of elite Armenian gymnasts gave an exhibition in his town. Afterwards, some teenage boys (including Azaryan) went on the apparatus and tried to perform the skills they had just seen. The gymnasts were so impressed with Albert that he was invited to move to Yerevan to train with them. After three years, he became the Armenian champion on rings and earned a Master of Sport ranking.[1]

Career

Azaryan competed at the USSR Championship in 1953. The judges were very strict and Azaryan felt nervous. When it was his turn, Azaryan pulled himself up on the rings and performed his own special technique. The judges did not give him an assessment at the time but he was invited to the next championship. It would later turn out that the judges had rated Azaryan's innovation as something "unprecedented." This technique Azaryan had performed would later become known as the "Azaryan Cross."[2]

Azaryan became a member of the Soviet national men's gymnastics team and competed with them at the 1954 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Alongside Azaryan on the team was friend and fellow Armenian Hrant Shahinyan. The Soviet team won gold in the team competition and Azaryan himself won the gold medal in rings. Azaryan joined the rest of the Soviet team at the 1955 European Men's Artistic Gymnastics Championships one year later. Azaryan became the European Champion in rings. He came behind stablemate Boris Shakhlin in most of the competitions, including coming second to Shakhlin on the high bars and individual all-around. He also had a three-way tie with Shaklin and Helmut Bantz on the parallel bars, resulting in three gold medalists.

Azaryan competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in every men's gymnastics competition. He came in seventh place in the individual all-around. Both Azaryan and the Soviet team won the gold medal in the team all-around. He also came in fifth in the parallel bars and eighth in the horizontal bar. When it came time for the still rings, Azaryan won the gold medal and became the Olympic Champion in rings. Two years later came the 1958 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Azaryan and the Soviet team defended their World Championship on the team all-around and Azaryan himself defended his own World Championship on the rings, winning gold medals for both. He also won a silver medal on the horizontal bar.

In his final Olympic participation, Azaryan competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics. The Soviet team was unable to retain their Olympic title in the team all-around, coming in second to the Japanese team. Azaryan, however, won the Olympic gold medal in the still rings for a second time and made history as the first Olympian to become an Olympic Champion in the rings twice. This feat has only been matched once ever since, by Akinori Nakayama twelve years later. Azaryan retired from gymnastics shortly afterward.

Azaryan was the flag bearer for Armenia at the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics and is the third and fourth Olympian to bear the flag of Armenia at the Summer Olympics. He also became the first flag bearer to bear the flag of Armenia twice. Azaryan was originally intended to also bear the Armenian flag at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but the decision was substantiated due to his age.[3]

Personal life

Azaryan has two daughters and one son with his wife. Neither of his daughters followed in his footsteps, but his son, Eduard Azaryan, also became an international gymnast. Albert was the coach of Eduard throughout his career. Eduard was a 1980 Olympian, where he competed in every event and won a gold medal in the men's artistic team all-around.[1]

Azaryan has received congratulations from late Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan on his 70th birthday, former Armenian President Robert Kocharian on his 75th birthday and former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan on his 80th birthday.[4] In honor of Azaryan, a stamp was printed of him, among other Armenian Olympic Champions, in Armenia in 2009.[5]

An artistic gymnastics tournament, the Albert Azaryan Cup, is named after Azaryan and hosted in Yerevan, Armenia.[6] Azaryan was voted the top Armenian athlete of the 20th century by journalists from the Armenian Sport Journalists Federation.[7]

King Of Rings Discloses The Secret Of His Success

ARMENPRESS FEBRUARY 8, 2012 YEREVAN

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 8, ARMENPRESS: Albert Azaryan, the winner of a gold medal in the rings at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, the 1954 and 1958 World Championships and the 1955 European Championships, is marking his 83d birthday anniversary. He was the first person to do one of the most famous exercises on the rings called the Iron Cross, Crucifix, or Azarian Cross in an international competition. Speaking to Armenpress, the master of gymnastics spoke about the way he passed.

- Mr Azaryan, it is necessary to go in for sports from early age. You started going to gymnastics from 16 years old. Which is your secret of victories?

- There is no secret. At that time there was one gym in Kirovakan (today's Vanadzor) and weightlifters, boxers were training there. At that time we were trained during inter-district fights. During these years sport events were being organized in the Soviet Union. About hundred athletes were to participate from the USSR in the sport contests in Czechoslovakia. I was selected from Vanadzor together with some other guys. We departed for Moscow where we had to pass an "exam". Many failed, like I did. One of the boys advised to go to Sviridov's to show my figure, he was sure I would be selected. And it happened so. There I saw athletes implementing different exercises. It was fatal for me. After returning to Vanadzor I started majoring in gymnastics. I came to Yerevan, entered technical school of physical culture. In short period of time I reached noticeable results.

- If not gymnastics, what would you have chosen?

- I like all kinds of sport. I say to my athletes that a child must be trained from 5 years, train the muscles and then major in sport he/she likes. My goal is to bring up healthy generation. Currently Hrant Shahinyan and Albert Azaryan gymnastics schools are operating in Yerevan.

- Is there a difference between your times and today's gymnastics?

- Of course, the difference is huge. Now there are multiple ways to train.

- But no one can do Azarian Cross.

- Yes, a great physical force is necessary for doing it. I was pupil of a forger. Now when I am being asked how to do crucifix, I say you must be forger's pupil to be able to do it.

- Mr Azaryan, how many pupils does your school have and which are their latest achievements?

- There are about 380 children in our school. Today I cannot speak about achievements as we do not have the opportunities to reach desirable results. We have very good children but we cannot send them to international competitions because of financial issues. I consider international competitions as international training as during it children feel sense of responsibility and learn a lot of things.

- After "Atlanta 96" Arthur Davtyan, your pupil, is the second to participate in London summer Olympics. Do you believe in him?

- Arthur is an athlete I believe in. Arthur is well-trained. We will wait for his victorious return.

- Gymnastics has been inherited in your family. Your son has become Olympic champion. Will your grandchildren continue your "affair"?

- I have seven grandchildren but they have not chosen either my or their father's path. They trained here for health. One of them is interested in wrestling, the other in boxing, and so on. From my four children only Edward became a sportsman, Olympic champion. We are athletic family, my wife was Armenia's champion in "free exercises".

- How will the "King of Rings" mark his birthday anniversary?

- You know I am becoming 38 years old (laughs). I always mark it with my staff. They initiate the festive part. Of course at home too I gather my relatives, friends. But the visit of my pupils is the greatest prize for me.


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