LONDON (A.W.)—Arsen Julfalakyan became a household name in Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora after he won the silver medal in the 74 kg. Greco-Roman wrestling event at the London Olympics on Sun., Aug. 5.
In an exclusive interview with the Armenian Weekly, the champion discusses his journey to the Olympics and his future plans.
Lilly Torosyan: At what age did you first start wrestling?
Arsen Julfalakyan: I started wrestling when I was 11-years-old in Gyumri [Armenia], under the instruction of trainer Gagik Sargsyan.
LT: What is your daily training and diet like? Has it changed since you found out you would be participating in the Olympics?
AJ: Our routine training varies, depending on which stage we’re in. If there is a good amount of time before the competition begins—about one to one-and-a-half months—we exercise two to three times a day, totaling about five to six hours. Our diet is quite calorie-heavy in order to withstand this heavy regimen, and includes a lot of fruits!
LT: How was preparing for the Olympics? Was there pressure on you to perform superbly?
AJ: It was incredibly difficult to prepare for the Olympic Games, especially because you’re not preparing for just any regular event, but for one of the best awards in the world. There was a huge responsibility, and no one could even imagine the nerves and the energy. And when the competition began, I was very happy that the day finally arrived. Thank God I was successful at this very important test!
LT: What was it like training in-between your matches in London? Was it more difficult than practicing in Armenia?
AJ: I only trained in London twice throughout the games. We specifically got there late for that reason. I ran one day, and did floor exercises the other. Was London more difficult or easy? Well, whenever you visit a country that has a lower altitude than Armenia, it becomes easier. You just have to be able to overcome the pressure and stress of the games—I don’t have a problem like it!
LT: Did you ever expect to win a medal?
AJ: If I really thought that I couldn’t win, I wouldn’t have gone to London. I had already participated in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, so there were no surprises waiting for me in London. I came here purely for the medal—basically for the gold.
LT: Your father and coach Levon Julfalakyan won the gold medal in the 68 kg. Greco-Roman wrestling event at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. You almost made Olympic history with two generations of father-son gold. How does your father feel about your win?
AJ: Yes, this was unprecedented. When a father and son conquer the same peak, it is of course something to be proud of. Personally though, it was more important to win my own medal than to set that record. In any case, they are both significant!
LT: What is the best piece of advice from your father/coach?
AJ: I cannot pinpoint just one—there are simply too many to name. After all, he is my father, as well as my coach.
LT: What are your future plans? Are you planning on participating in the next Olympics, in Brazil?
AJ: Right now, I am only thinking about getting home soon, and holding all of my loved ones, in particular, the two most precious people in my life—my mother and my girlfriend. Then I would love to vacation in a really warm country. The rest of my itinerary will be clear after all of that. As for Rio 2016, of course I will be getting ready in the best way possible. May God grant me enough health and luck.