My Favorite Olympic Memory

If I am encouraging everyone to share their favorite AYF Olympic photos and memories, I should be the first to share such.

Like many of you, I have many wonderful memories of the AYF Olympics. In the case of my most special memory, the 85th Annual Olympics Games in Philadelphia came to mind. Yes, my favorite Olympic memory is from 2018, two short years ago.

It is special because it involves my first-born grandchild, Aris Gabriel Gavoor. He was just four years-old at the time. It also involves my father, Aram “Sonny” Gavoor, who passed away in June of that year.

We were having breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning. I was sitting next to Aris, and we were enjoying our waffles. My wife Judy, his grandmother, asked him if he was excited to be running in his first kiddie race at the Olympics. He nodded and said, “Yes.” A bit later, he turned to me and said, “You know, I am very fast.” He said it in a kind solemn whisper and full of confidence at the same time. I got the impression he was sharing some important privileged information with me. I eloquently replied, “I see.  Thank you for telling me, Aris. I can’t wait to watch you run.”

Later at the track before the opening ceremonies, I was taking photos of the long jumping, field events, and track prelims. I found myself repeating Aris’ words, “You know, I am very fast…” even out loud. I knew Coach Sonny would have loved hearing his great-grandson say it. I was smiling each time I repeated it.  

My dad loved the Olympics. He especially loved the Track and Field, his favorite part of the games. Emotions were swirling during the opening ceremonies when the Detroit team sported tee-shirts that read, “It’s Always Sonny” on the front and “Gavoor” on the back. Coach Sonny would have loved that. I loved that.

Sonny’s grandchildren Jacob, Kara and Kyle Niffin sporting the “It’s Always Sonny” Detroit Chapter shirts in the Opening Ceremonies

When it came time for the kiddie races, both Aris and his sister Lara, two years old at the time, came down to the track.  They had on their “Future AYF Member” t-shirts.  Their father, my son Aram, passed them over the fence to me.  When I set them down on the track, they both took off running.  “You know, I am very fast.”  We had to catch them both and bring them back to the starting line.

The toddlers, the under four years olds, ran first. Lara loved it. She ran with a big smile on her face. At the half-way point, she stopped and waited for another little girl to catch up. Then, she ran right into the arms of her gunkamayr Melanie Mesropian at the finish line. Then, parents and officials began the process (and it is a process) of getting the older kids lined up. Aris was at the line in a set position from the first call until the start of the race. I was impressed with his focus and look of determination. “You know, I am very fast.”  

When they started the race, Aris ran well. Alas, he was not the fastest because he was among the youngest in the race. He was no match for the six and seven year olds. He finished in the top third. But, he was not done. He ran past his gunkamayr and kept running. He was not the first little guy to keep running. It happens almost every year. Most stop when someone catches them or they hear their parents telling them to stop. No one stopped Aris. He kept running. Family, at first, called out, “Aris stop!” He didn’t hear or more likely ignored those calls. He was in a zone. He kept running. After 100 meters, cries to stop ceased and Aris kept running. At the 200 meter mark, half a lap, it was clear Aris was intent on running the whole 400 meters. And, he looked great doing it. I loved his steady, four year-old pace and form that looked much older. Coach Sonny was beaming from heaven as his great-grandson was running a victory lap for him. “You know, I am very fast.” 

“You know, I am very fast.”—Aris Gavoor

Olympic King Alec Sarafian was in the press box as part of the announcing crew. I texted him to let him know who the little guy running was. Alec announced, “This runner is Coach Sonny Gavoor’s grandson, Aris Gavoor, completing this lap. Sonny is no doubt smiling down on this. Let’s cheer him on as he finishes.” The crowd did applaud and cheer Aris in his last 50 meters. It was a spectacular moment.

Aris Gavoor running with all his heart during the 2018 AYF Olympics kiddie race

My family is Olympic royalty all the way. My maternal aunt Suzie Merian Arzoian and sister Nancy Gavoor are Olympic Queens and long standing high scorers. Coach Sonny and his brother Buddy are Olympic Kings. Our son, Aram Gavoor, is on the high scorer list just above his great-uncle Buddy. Our daughter Armene was a tennis player and swimmer. Me…not so much or rather not at all. I participated in several Olympics and never ever scored a point. 

Mark Gavoor’s attempt at shot put

The other Coach Gavoor, Aris’ great-aunt Nancy, was very impressed with his form and that he was not winded at all at the end of lap. She has been giving Aris some age appropriate workouts ever since. Who knows, Aris may become the next great Gavoor trackman.

All of our family members in attendance in Philadelphia on that Sunday, September 2, 2018, were completely delighted and totally in awe of what we witnessed. At the age of four, Aris ran a victory lap for his great-grandfather at the AYF Olympics. Now, Aris’ mother Anoush, Judy and I keep quoting Aris to each other, “You know, I am very fast.” 

In this year without an AYF Olympics, we encourage you to share your favorite AYF Olympic photos and memories. Hunt for your favorite photos and email them to

Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.

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