Armenian Community in Vancouver Honors Olympians

Armenian Weekly sports correspondent Antranig Dereyan reports from Vancouver.

VANCOUVER, Canada (A.W.)—The 21st Winter Olympic Games came to a close on Sun., Feb 28. But Team Armenia had to take care of two more things before they could attend the Closing Ceremony at BC Place: Arsen Nersisyan’s run in the slalom, and gathering with fellow Armenians at St. Vartan Church in Vancouver.

A scene from the community event honoring the Olympians (photo: Antranig Dereyan)

Nersisyan was ready and focused at the top of the mountain before his run, but he was disqualified before his run “because coming out of the starting gate, my skies parted,” he told the Armenian Weekly after the race.

Rule 629 of the International Ski Federation’s rulebook covers “improper gate movement”—a vague term, but Nersisyan fit the profile. It would be an unfortunate end to his Olympic experience, especially after his fall at the giant slalom a couple of days prior.

Yet, on the night of the Feb. 27, any feelings of frustrations, any sad faces were turned into feelings of jubilation and smiles, as Armenians of all ages came to the St. Vartan Church to meet their team.

“[Armenia’s] participation in the Olympics—which brings all the nations together, as a place of fellowship, friendship, and competition—and having a Winter Olympic team in Vancouver makes us extremely proud. We’re seeing our country grow in many directions, especially in the sports field,” said Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Canada.

The athletes were mingling with the delegation in the meeting hall, also known as the eating area and performance space, signing autographs and having a great time.

On stage, Edward Grigoryan, the St. Vartan community representative, gave a speech about what the team meant to its people, and showed a video clip of Armenia’s flag rising during the first days of the Games.

A scene from the community event honoring the Olympians (photo: Antranig Dereyan)

“The journey getting here wasn’t easy. I live in San Francisco and ever since I was 5-years-old, I have been skiing,” said Olympics alpine skier Ani-Matilda Serebrakian, whose dual citizenship allowed her to ski for Armenia. “Almost every year, Lake Tahoe is where I ski. That has been consistent for the last 20 years and all the hard work finally paid off.”

To be an Olympian is hard, but there is more to it. “One must be dedicated to their sport,” added Serebrakian.

Sergey Mikayelyan, the youngest of the group, was busy the entire night greeting people, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. When informed that NBC had spoken about him during one of his cross-country runs, he said with a smile, “I didn’t know, no one told me after my run or before, but I am glad to hear of it.”

Grigoryan and Keghart Garabedian, the Archpriest of St. Vartan Church, handed each Olympian a plaque, inscribed with their names, as well as special presents for the two women of the team.

Then, it was time to head back home and get ready for the Closing Ceremony.

“I’ve been in Vancouver since 1994 and at this church since the very beginning,” said churchgoer Artka Dardinian at the Closing Ceremony the next night, where the Armenian flag was on full display. “To see our flag at the Vancouver Olympics, the participation made me happy, for myself and my country, and it was great to see them here, talking with us.”

On March 1, Team Armenia boarded their planes to return home.

In 2014, the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia and Team Armenia will once again be represented—but next time, they’ll be more prepared and experienced, in the hope of bringing back some medals.

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Antranig Dereyan

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antranig Dereyan graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s in journalism. He contributes frequently to the Armenian Weekly with sports pieces. He also freelances for other online sites and newspapers.

2 Comments

  1. Wow I remember Ani! Her father is a surgeon in the bay area.  This was a great story reminds me of the Olympic Armenian Bobsled team, those guys would practice in the streets of San Jose, CA. 

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