Albert Azaryan is an artistic Armenian gymnast who became a Olympic champion as well as is best-known as the Armenian “Lord of the Rings”.
Rio 2016 Olympic Games were exceptional for Armenians because after a 20-year break, Armenia finally won a gold medal.
That is why the victories of Armenian sportsmen at the 31st summer Olympic Games are still fresh in our memories and it is a good chance to take a look back at the achievements of other Armenian Olympic champions who won plenty of medals bringing honor to their nations.
One of those athletes is Albert Azaryan. You may probably think what the connection between the Armenian athlete and “the Lord of the Rings” is.
Keep reading to satisfy your curiosity and learn more about the top Armenian athlete of the 20th century.
Who is Albert Azaryan?
Legendary Armenian artistic gymnast Albert Azaryan was born on February 11, 1929. Before competing internationally and gaining world fame, Azaryan had seen many hardships as a teenager.
His father died when he was 14. Azaryan had to leave school and work as an apprentice to a blacksmith to support his family.
You think all these challenges he had to face broke Azaryan’s spirit? If yes, then you are very much mistaken.
Instead of complaining about difficulties, Azaryan always states that due to the hard-physical labor of those years he led such a successful career in sports.
When he was a child, everybody in Kirovakan (present-day Vanadzor) was interested in weightlifting, boxing and wrestling. Azaryan was also engaged in activities of all types of sports, except gymnastics. So, he didn’t take up gymnastics until he was 16 years old.
However, a turning point in his career came when a group of elite Armenian gymnasts gave an exhibition in Kirovakan. Afterwards, some teenage boys (among them Albert) went on the apparatus and tried to perform the skills they had just seen.
The gymnasts were so carried away by Albert’s performance, that he was invited to move to Yerevan to train with them.
Three years later, he became the Armenian champion on rings and earned a Master of Sport ranking. From 1948 to 1952 ,the Armenian gymnast studied at “Technical School of Physical Culture”.
In 1956, he graduated from “Yerevan State Institute of Physical Culture”.
Sport Career of Albert Azaryan
Armenian gymnast, Albert Azaryan, is one of those exceptional sportsmen who won all the possible medals during international championships becoming the national pride of Armenians and the whole Soviet Union.
In the early years of his career, Azaryan competed at the USSR Championship in 1953. When it was his turn, Azaryan pulled himself up on the rings and performed his own special technique and then something paradoxical happened.
Just imagine that the strict judges do not give you an assessment, but you are invited to the next championship.
What would you think at that moment? Maybe that judges are crazy?
In Azaryan’s case, the judges were not crazy, they were just admired by Azaryan’s innovative technique and rated it as something “unprecedented”.
Because of his success, Azaryan became a member of the Soviet national men’s gymnastics team and became a world champion on the rings in Rome, Italy in 1954. He competed with the Soviet team at the 1958 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and defended his own World Championship on the rings, winning gold medals for both.
He also won a silver medal on the horizontal bar. Azaryan participated in many other international championships held in Germany, France, USA, Cuba, Indonesia, etc. In the end, he won 45 gold, 45 silver and 10 bronze medals in his career.
So, you already know that Armenians are not only proud of the richness of their culture and history, but also of their sporting achievements.
Albert Azaryan: “The Lord of the Rings”
In spite of all the international championships, and medals the Armenian gymnast won, the whole world associates Albert Azaryan’s name to the Olympic Games.
He is the only Armenian sportsman who succeeded to become a thrice-repeated champion of Olympic Games bringing fame and pride to Armenian sport.
In 1956 during the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, both Azaryan and the Soviet team won the gold medal in the team all-around. But when it came time for the still rings, Azaryan won the gold medal and became the Olympic Champion in rings.
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 rings for a second time and made history as the first ever Olympian to become an Olympic Champion in the rings twice. This is how he became known as the first and yet the only “Lord of the Rings”.
He was the first person to do one of the most famous tricks on the rings called the “Iron Cross” or “Azarian Cross”. It is perhaps his biggest legacy and has long been included in the World Sports Encyclopedia.
People sometimes ask him how to perform his left and right cross and Azaryan usually answers (half-jokingly) that one should work as a blacksmith apprentice to perform the “Iron Cross”.
However, the legendary sportsman says that he has not seen anyone who could do his cross and break his record since a great physical force is necessary for doing it.
“No one can perform it correctly. My son tried to do it, and it was not what it should be.”-Azaryan is joking.
Albert Azaryan as a Coach
In 1964 Albert Azaryan finished his successful sporting career. However, he maintained his popularity by starting his career in teaching. Currently he is the director of “Albert Azaryan School of Gymnastics”, a sports school located in Yerevan. There are about 400 children in the school.
Throughout years, Albert Azaryan coached thousands of athletes. One of them was his son, Eduard Azaryan, who started gymnastics in his early childhood under the guidance of his father.
It goes without saying that the outcome of this cooperation was full of success. Azaryan junior is an Olympic Champion and four-time Soviet Champion.
Just imagine, two Olympic Champions in one family. Sounds unrealistic, right? But not for Azaryan family!
“The Lord of the Rings” is now 87 years old. Sometimes he gets surprised that people still recognize and glorify him. Armenians’ true love and respect towards him is expressed in myriad ways.
Albert Azaryan: Legacy
Albert Azaryan is an honorary citizen of Yerevan.
In honor of Azaryan, a stamp was printed of him, among other Armenian Olympic Champions, in Armenia in 2009.
As the pride of Armenian nation Azaryan was the flag bearer for Armenia at the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics.
“The Albert Azaryan Cup”, an artistic gymnastics tournament is named after Azaryan. It is hosted in Yerevan bringing together gymnasts, not only from Armenia, but from Iran, Syria, Georgia and other countries as well.
Albert Azaryan always received profitable job offers from other countries, but the love towards his fatherland made him turn down those offers. Now his goal is to bring up healthy generation and help his students to reach new heights of sporting glory.
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