Blue Springs Examiner, Missouri
Aug 6 2005
Still going strong
Local diver winning medals into his 80s
By Bill Althaus
It's not exactly Fort Knox, but it's close.
Tom Hairabedian has enough gold in the office of his stylish Independence townhouse to make Donald Trump jealous.
But it's not the type of gold you store in a vault - it's the type you wear around your neck when you are a world class athlete.
Hairabedian - who could pass for a suave 60-year-old - is an 81-year-old Masters Diving Champion.
He just returned from the World Masters Games in Edmonton, Canada where he swept the diving events - taking first place in the 1-meter, 3-meter, platform and synchronized diving (with partner Gordon Peak).
Five huge frames, filled with medals - mostly gold - adorn the walls of his office. And he grasps his most recent prizes his thick right hand as he proudly shows the engraved events on the back of each medal.
"I guess I'm running out of room in here," the personable Hairabedian said. "But the medals are nice. It's nice to be rewarded for a job well done. But I don't dive for the medals. I used to dive for the competition - now, I do it for the challenge, and for fun."
Julie Scheidegger/The Examiner
Tom Hairabedian keeps winning diving medals
Hairabedian has been bringing home the golden hardware since the inception of the Masters Games in 1985.
But his first three medals weren't gold.
"No, they were platinum," he said, proudly showing three huge discs that look more like Christmas tree ornaments. "These are pretty heavy, huh? I wouldn't want to wear them around my neck too long."
They might cause him to topple over.
Hairabedian's story is something out of Ripley's Believe It or Not.
His mother, a native of Armenia, escaped a Turkish death march and miraculously found her way to Ellis Island, where she worked as an interpreter.
His father was a captain in the Russian army who came to the United States before World War II.
Kniza and Zepure Hairabedian had three boys - two of whom are in the Who's Who of Armenian Athletes. Tom's younger brother, Ara, was a great athlete who later became a swimming and diving coach at Fresno State.
Tom was a world class gymnast who soon became entranced by diving while attending USC and middle brother Deron enjoyed a successful business career.
Through his involvement with the Community of Christ Church, Tom moved to Independence. He has been the head swimming and diving coach at Central Missouri State University and the University of Missouri.
He keeps the leather-bound thesis he wrote on diving in his office, along with enough diving awards to fill a Hall of Fame.
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, look for Tom to be inducted Masters Division of the International Hall of Fame in 2006.
That seems like a fitting place of honor for a man who owns 140 national titles.
Today, Hairabedian in the diving coach at the newest area high school, Lee's Summit West. Success simply seems to follow this human dynamo wherever he goes as he helped junior Ron Porter become the first all-state diver in school history.
"Ron had a background in gymnastics, just like me," Hairabedian said, his eyes gleaming. "He compete in four meets and took second at his first meet and won the others. He was so excited about being an all-state diver in his first year at the school.
"I can't wait to see what he does this year."
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