Early Friday morning at the AYF Olympics, you see young folks with golf clubs and tennis bags gathering in the lobby waiting for the bus to the golf and tennis events. Friday morning has traditionally been the day for these “lifetime” sports. The Organizing Committee had golf, tennis and the new sport, three-on-three basketball, all in Mt. Prospect, IL, so each bus made all three stops.
The tennis courts were at Memorial Park. The weather was perfect in the mid-70s, and the facility was great with a few picnic tables, no stands. Usually there are more women than men players, but this year the tables were turned. There were five women and 14 men—the largest turnout for men in many years.
On the women’s side, Anahis Kechejian of Greater Boston and, making her debut, Chantelle Nasri from the Manhattan Chapter, played the first match. Anahis won that match and then played Lina Ariyan from NJ, a previous gold medal winner in tennis. Lina’s sister, Katia, took on Olivia Barberian from North Andover at the same time. Both Ariyan sisters won with relative ease to set up an all-NJ final, which has been the norm over the past several years of AYF tennis. Katia edged out her sister to earn her first gold medal in tennis. Anahis and Olivia played for the bronze, and Olivia won. Here are the final results for the women:
- Katia Ariyan (New Jersey)
- Lina Ariyan (New Jersey)
- Olivia Barberian (North Andover)
- Anahis Kechejian (Greater Boston)
“It was fun to win my first gold medal in tennis,” said Katia Ariyan. “Playing my sister in the finals made it even more special. When we were younger, Lina and I were very competitive with each other, but as we are both in college and don’t play as much, it was just good to be out there and play with her. I also like seeing Olivia and playing her in AYF tennis. Looking forward to more girls showing up in Worcester next year.”
In the first round, all the Detroit players advanced. Jacob Niffin bested Garin Bedian of Chicago. His brother Kyle Niffin beat George Noury of New Jersey. First-timer Jake Kurkjian beat Sevan Donoian of Providence. Another Detroit first-timer, Michael-Armen Kadian, bested Greg Masron of Greater Boston. In the other two first-round matches, Garo Tashian of Providence prevailed over Sevag Sanikian of Fresno, and Shahan DerBedrosian of Glendale bested Kyle Dinkjian of New Jersey.
Last year’s gold and silver medal winners, Hagop Taraksian and Nareg Mkrtchjan, both of Providence, had byes in the first round. Taraksian took on and beat Jacob Niffin. Mkrtchjan faced Kadian and lost. The other two matches had Niffin facing Tashian and DerBedrosian playing Kurkjian. Tashian and DerBedrosian were the winners. It was clear that newcomers Kadian and DerBedrosian were pretty good players.
In the semi-finals, Taraksian faced and beat his Providence teammate, Tashian. Kadian and DerBedrosian played a rousing match, and DerBedrosian won.
This set up what were very good final matches. Four-time gold medal winner Taraksian was going after his fifth against DerBedrosian. Taraksian’s teammate Tashian faced Kadian. In both cases, it was veteran versus first-year competitors. Both games were very competitive, and in both cases, the younger players won. The men’s results were:
- Shahan DerBedrosian (Glendale, Western Region)
- Hagop Taraksian (Providence)
- Michael-Armen Kadian (Detroit)
- Garo Tashian (Providence)
Taraksian is a competitor and a class act. The gallery knew he wanted that fifth gold, and they wanted it for him. DerBedrosian, however, is a very good player. The final result might look a little lopsided, but every game went to deuce and multiple deuces. It a slug fest, and it was DerBedrosian’s day in the end. It was some of the best tennis I have seen on the men’s side of AYF in a long time. Next year in Worcester could be epic.
On a final note, it was Tashian’s and Donoian’s last tennis competition as they are aging out. Both are wonderful examples of AYF members and athletes. I would like to highlight Donoian a bit here. He lost in the first round of this competition. Let’s be clear that he wants to win, and he plays to win. But for him, being there with his fellow Armenians has always been first and foremost in his mind and heart. He has been a recipient of the Ernest Nahigian Sportsmanship trophy because everyone recognizes his natural enthusiasm and fraternalism. He truly has the AYF spirit. And there is not a doubt in my mind that both Tashian and Donoian will continue to be involved.
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