Alik Sarkasian is a distinguished sportsmen and diving coach.
In the early 1970s, Sarkasian in what was then the Soviet republic of Armenia began to show a talent for diving, and in keeping with Soviet traditions of that time, he was soon receiving specialized coaching that allowed him to develop his skill in that sport.
By 1976 he had obtained the coveted title of "Master of Sport" in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after being proclaimed the Armenian National Champion of diving and also competed in many diving competitions in Europe.
In 1992 one of the divers he coached, Arus Gulbenkian, won the USSR diving championship in two different categories, and shortly thereafter he immigrated to the United States to train at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, Calif. After conferring with Gulbenkian, the then-head coach of the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, Van Austin, approached Sarkasian and requested that he join his former student at the Center.
Sarkasian had all the privileges in the Soviet Union that were afforded to those who coached award-winning athletes at that time, and he was initially reluctant to leave his homeland. But he had always been curious about life in America, and after much soul-searching he decided to accept Austin's offer.
In 1993 Sarkasian began coaching at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, and he discovered that he enjoyed the dynamism of American life. He was pleased to discover that Southern California had a vibrant Armenian community that embraced him and made him feel welcome. From 1993 until 1998 he served as assistant head coach at that center. In 1995 he briefly returned to his homeland of Armenia - which had become an independent nation when the Soviet Union collapsed - and served as coach for the Armenian National Team at the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Atlanta in the following year. He went on to serve as the head coach for the University of Southern California's diving team and also assisted in the coaching of the American Olympic diving team in 2000. In 2001 the United States Diving Federation decided to open what would be its second regional center, and Oklahoma City was selected to be the home of the center and Sarkasian was appointed its director and head coach. He has continued to serve in those roles since that time.
Sarkasian has enjoyed his time in Oklahoma and has developed a fondness for the state and its people that is readily apparent. He speaks with feeling about the efforts that have been made by many in Oklahoma to make him feel welcome and the friendliness of the Oklahomans from all walks of life that he has encountered since 1993.
He has been impressed with the discipline and dedication displayed by the divers that he has had the good fortune to coach in the state But Sarkasian believes that Oklahoma has not fully appreciated what a successful diving program could mean for the state, and that his undertaking here has not received the support from the public or attention from the media that it deserves. Sarkesian asserts that competitive diving could provide college scholarships for Oklahoma students of modest financial means and that young Oklahomans can develop physical flexibility as well as mental discipline through recreational diving. He has conducted many clinics and educational programs that have brought diving coaches from around the nation to Oklahoma City and he expects that those programs will increase in the years to come. He also works with Oklahoma coaches to develop diving programs for the state's young athletes.
Sarkasian has coached individual Oklahomans who have proven to be skilled competitive divers. His program currently includes more than 70 divers, and 12 of them have participated in national-level championships. Sarkasian takes particular pride in the fact that five of his divers - Shanna Schuelein, Kylie Ruiz, Kaylea Arnett, Andrew Whittington and Jeremy Mulkey - have qualified to participate in international championships. In addition, two of his students have participated in the Pan American Games as members of the American National Team. Sarkesian reports that one of his proudest moments occurred on Feb. 27, 2004, when he became an American citizen. He believes that if his diving program receives support in the years to come, he will be able to train athletes who will return to Oklahoma from Olympic Games with gold medals
- TRACING THE ARC OF AN ARMENIAN DIVER, William F. O'Brien, January 10 2006