Winning Olympians on their first AYF Olympics experience

The AYF Olympics is a special event where chapters get to showcase their membership, athletes or not, win or lose. Over the past two years, the Providence “Varantian” chapter made a concerted effort to bring in new members, both from within and outside the AYF-YOARF family, and has done so in stride. The Providence senior chapter has grown from 33 members to 60 in less than two years. Many members were experiencing the AYF Olympics as their first exposure to the AYF-YOARF. 

Similarly, the Greater Boston “Nejdeh” senior chapter has seen a large shift in its membership the past few years. With many junior transfers and novice members replacing older members who have or are nearly graduated, spectators of the 87th Annual AYF Olympics saw a rejuvenated Boston team. Those new members, along with veteran participants, proudly represented and carried the Nejdehs to their tie for first place with the historic Providence “Varantian” Chapter – a result that perfectly fit the pandemic narrative of firsts and shocking surprises. 

Read on to see the impact of these competitions on some of the newest AYF members:

Natalia Oganesian (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

“Competing at the AYF Olympics for the first time did not feel like the first time. There was this immediate connection with my teammates, and I felt so comfortable being around them. We all cheered for each other and supported each other like family. There was so much positivity during the swim meet. I can’t wait for next year! Winning three gold medals at my first Olympics was a crazy experience. Basically, all of my races were neck and neck, and having good competition only pushed me to swim faster and score for the team. I felt relieved knowing that I scored for the team and that all my training paid off.” —  Natalia Oganesian, 17, Providence

Sophia Pereira participating in the relay (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

“Participating for the first time in the AYF Olympics was an experience I’ll never forget. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive, and I couldn’t have asked for a greater group of people to both coach me and encourage me. It truly left a great mark in my life, and I am grateful to all of those who were a part of it.” Sophia Pereira, 16, Providence

Hagop Taraksian passing the baton to Eliz Ohanian (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)

“Competing and being a part of the AYF Olympics for the first time was an opportunity that I was so thankful to receive. The sense of community was incredibly motivational, and having people believe in me when I doubted myself meant a lot.” —  Eliz Ohanian, 17, Providence

“I was excited to compete in my first ever AYF Olympics this year as I had always hoped I one day could. It was awesome to compete with people who had incredible sportsmanship and who cheered each other on to do their best. Being able to contribute to my team by scoring points felt great as I know we all worked incredibly hard in preparation for the Olympics, and seeing all of our hard work pay off as we placed 1st felt very rewarding.” —  Michael Simonian, 16, Providence

“Competing in the AYF Olympics was something different, but it was a good different. There is a group of people who want to play the game just like me. We worked hard every practice. The outcome in softball was not what we wanted, but next year we will come back stronger. I look forward to next year’s Olympics and am excited to see what this team offers.” —  Sophia Chevian, 16, Providence


“Being surrounded by such a great community that was so passionate about representing their chapters was really nice to see. The competitive environment motivates me to come back next year and win more medals!” —
  Gor Bagumyan, 20, Providence

“I was so happy to finally unite as a community again. I’m so glad to have been a part of the weekend and to have been successful on top of that.” —  Sara Gomez, 17, Providence

“As a new AYF member at my first Olympics I felt ecstatic to be able to compete for my team amongst the best Armenian youth across the nation. Our team in Providence came together so well. We all clicked with each other which helped a lot during practice and on race day. I was fortunate enough to place in multiple events for my team, and seeing the joy of our members as they were able to lift the Olympic Cup was a highlight of this year for me. The runners I raced against pushed me to my limit. I could not have had better competitors.” Matt Ursillo, 21, Providence 

“Competing in the AYF Olympics is like playing with an extended family and enjoying every second of it. Even if you don’t win, you still feel proud just to be there and to be Armenian because of the support and enthusiasm everyone brings to the events.” — Nikolas Kojoian, 17, Providence

Emma Garabedian (Photo: Tamar Kanarian)

Competing at my first AYF Olympics was an amazing experience. I enjoyed playing softball and meeting new people. I’m excited to participate next year too.” Emma Garabedian, 17, Providence

Koko Kassabian

“Competing for the first time was great being a part of such a great group of people and making new friends. Finishing 1st in both the 200m and hurdles was an amazing feeling. Even though I didn’t win the 100m, getting 3rd place was still great because I still helped my team get points and had fun competing.” — Koko Kassabian, 17, Providence

Sevak Glorikian (Number 72)

“Going to Olympics for the first time really opened me up to a larger and more exciting Armenian community. I had the time of my life hanging out and competing against Armenian kids my age from all around the country. The feeling of community during the events and the dances really brought me closer to my chapter and my teammates. I can’t wait to go next year and make more memories with friends both old and new.” — Sevak Glorikian, 16, Greater Boston

Nareg Minasian

“Competing at AYF Olympics has me excited for next year’s Olympics already. Olympics was one of the best weekends of my life. I was able to reconnect with friends across the states I haven’t seen in a long time. 10/10 – would recommend to anyone considering going.” — Nareg Minassian, 17, Greater Boston

John Avakian embracing coach Ara Krafian (Photo: Tamar Kanarian)

“For my first time at Olympics, I had a really fun time in all aspects. With the weekend starting out really good then taking a major turn with dislocating my shoulder. Couldn’t stop there though, still had to push through for the team. Overall, I would say the weekend went great and I’m proud to represent my chapter.” John Avakian, 19, Greater Boston

Armand Avakian

“I had a blast playing softball and golfing in the Olympic Games and representing the Greater Boston chapter for the first time. It was great meeting many other Armenians while competing and being under some beautiful weather all weekend. It was a real pleasure being a part of it all. Already looking forward to next year’s games!” Armand Avakian, 25, Greater Boston

“I hadn’t competed in an AYF Senior Olympics since 2012, and this year seemed like the perfect year in order to heal from the isolation of the pandemic, Providence being close to Boston and 2021 being my second-to-last year of eligibility. I was extremely worried about how out of shape I would be and almost scratched in a difficult event. I ended up getting fourth in that event and placing third in another event! Given the final tie score I’m so glad I didn’t scratch that fourth place event. It gave me so much pride and optimism to see all our younger members’ athleticism, sportsmanship and enthusiasm, both in the Boston chapter and across all chapters, and I can’t wait for my last year of AYF Olympics in Worcester in 2022 and all of the years to come.” — Taleen Lachinian, 27, Greater Boston

Taleen Lachinian (Greater Boston) and Lucine Bahtiarian (Greater Boston) (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)
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Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

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