Albert Azaryan, born on February 11, 1929, was a Soviet Armenian artistic gymnast who made waves in the world of gymnastics. He represented the Soviet Union on the international stage and achieved remarkable feats during his career. Let’s delve into the life and achievements of this legendary gymnast.
Azaryan’s claim to fame came through his exceptional performances on the still rings. He clinched the Olympic gold medal in this discipline not once, but twice, in 1956 and 1960. This made him the first gymnast in history to become an Olympic Champion in rings on two occasions, a remarkable accomplishment that remained unmatched for over a decade until Akinori Nakayama replicated this feat twelve years later.
In addition to his Olympic achievements, Albert Azaryan also introduced the world to the “Azaryan Cross,” a famous variation of the Iron Cross on the rings that involved a quarter-turn to the side. This move became an iconic part of gymnastics history.
Early Life and Struggles
Albert Azaryan’s journey to gymnastics stardom was far from conventional. He was born in Gharakilisa, which was part of the Transcaucasian SFSR at the time. Tragedy struck early in his life when his father passed away when Albert was just 14 years old. To support his family, he had to leave school and take up work as an ironsmith.
Azaryan’s life took a significant turn when, at the age of 17, he witnessed an exhibition by elite Armenian gymnasts in his town. Inspired by their performance, he and some other teenagers attempted to replicate the skills they had just seen. His talent was so impressive that he received an invitation to move to Yerevan and train with the gymnastics elite. After three years of dedication and hard work, he not only became the Armenian champion on rings but also earned the coveted title of “Master of Sport.”
A Family Legacy
Albert Azaryan’s passion for gymnastics extended to his family. He had two daughters and one son, Eduard Azaryan. While his daughters did not follow in his footsteps, Eduard became an international gymnast and represented the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics. Albert took on the role of his coach, guiding Eduard throughout his career, which culminated in a gold medal in the men’s artistic team all-around event at the 1980 Olympics.
Honors and Recognition
Throughout his life, Albert Azaryan received accolades and recognition from prominent figures in Armenia. He received congratulations from late Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan on his 70th birthday, former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan on his 75th birthday, and former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan on his 80th birthday.
In a fitting tribute to his contributions to the world of gymnastics, a stamp bearing his image, along with other Armenian Olympic Champions, was issued in Armenia in 2009.
Moreover, his enduring legacy lives on through the “Albert Azaryan Cup,” an artistic gymnastics tournament hosted in Yerevan, Armenia, in his honor.
In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Albert Azaryan was voted as the top Armenian athlete of the 20th century by journalists from the Armenian Sport Journalists Federation.
Albert Azaryan’s life and career are a testament to the power of determination and dedication. He remains an enduring inspiration to gymnasts and sports enthusiasts worldwide, leaving an indelible mark on the history of gymnastics.