Tennis and golf are the so-called “lifetime sports” of the AYF Olympics. These are the sports that you can learn at any age and play the rest of your life. It was a beautiful day for both lifetime sports. There were nine women and 13 men who signed up to play. One woman and two men scratched. Rich Keshgegian and Daron Topouzian of the Governing Body seeded the players and established the brackets, and play began in earnest.
In past years, the preliminary rounds were one-set matches with a tie-breaker. There was a lot more tennis to watch, as this year’s format was two sets and a tie-breaker, if needed.
“We had a good level of participation,” said Topouzian. “Providence again dominated the men, but we had a new champion in the women’s with Granite City surrounded by New Jersey.”
There were four preliminary rounds for the women. Last year’s silver medalist Kira Ariyan (New Jersey) beat Philadelphia’s Jane DerSimonian 6-1, 6-2. At the same time, last year’s bronze medalist Giselle Krikorian (Granite City) bested Jane Ouligian of Greater Boston 6-0, 6-0. Christa Ariyan of New Jersey took Narineh Tekeyan of Washington 6-0, 6-0. Nina Bouchakjian of New Jersey faced Sema Changelian of Greater Boston and won 6-2, 6-3.
In the semifinals, Kira Ariyan played teammate Bouchakjian and won 6-0, 6-2. In the second game, Krikorian took Christa Ariyan 6-0, 6-1. In the final, Krikorian bested Kira Ariyan 6-0, 6-1, winning the first gold medal in tennis for Granite City. For the second year in a row, Jersey took three of the top four.
On the men’s side, the competition was a bit more intense. There were three matches in the open round. Alec Soghomonian (Manhattan) took on George Chapian (Greater Boston). Peter Setrakian of New Jersey beat Raffi Kelebozian of Toronto. Anto Keshgegian of Philadelphia bested Anto Chouchian of Toronto. In the second round, there were four matches. Reigning champion Hagop Taraksian of Providence faced Peter Setrakian of New Jersey. Taraksian won 6-3, 6-0. The other four matches were some of the best of the day. Each went to a tie-breaker. The players were evenly matched and defensively minded, making for some long volley points. Matt Boghossian of Providence defeated Soghomonian. Keshgegian faced last year’s silver medalist Jason Pjojian of Providence, who prevailed in the tiebreaker. Xavier Millett of Providence squared off against Michael-Armen Kadian of Detroit. Millett won the tiebreaker to make for an all Providence semi-final.
Taraksian faced Boghossian and took him 6-0, 6-1. Millett played Pjojian, but he had to pull out due to an injury. Millett settled for fourth, and Pjojian went on to play Taraksian for the championship for a second year in a row. Taraksian bested his teammate 6-1, 6-1. Taraksian is already an AYF tennis legend. He has competed for seven years and has six gold medals and one silver medal to his credit. Olympic King Harry Derderian (Springfield/Boston) and Dave Mossoian of Detroit each have seven gold medals. Taraksian can join this duo next year with a win in DC. If he competes for two more years after that, he could set the record.
“I loved the increased number of participants and the competition,” said Taraksian. “Peter Setrakian played in his first Olympics. I expect great things from him in the coming years. It felt great to see Providence sweep tennis, which I believe is the first time ever for us. Each of the others went down in their first sets but rallied to win.”
Taraksian, a design quality engineer for Johnson and Johnson, also ran relays and played softball for the Varantians. “It was a great Olympics. Winning softball was definitely more satisfying than winning tennis.”
Krikorian, for her part, is the president of the Granite City Chapter. Her sister Gabby was president before her. Along with their advisor Stephen Hagopian, the three of them supported and encouraged the chapter’s six participants this year. It is certainly the most in many years, and they scored six points.
Krikorian is in her second year at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she is majoring in history and biology. She wants to attend medical school like her father. Since placing third last year, Krikorian has been playing in matches and tournaments. “I have focused on my tennis mentality and basics. I felt my strategy and tactics were working. My confidence was bolstered by some good play. My toughest match was the final, and Kira made me play better.”
Like Taraksian, Krikorian did not dwell on her individual accomplishments. “The biggest thing this year was having more chapter members at the Olympics. It was a great experience and a pleasure to show them really what the Olympics and the larger AYF community are all about. It reinvigorated their interest in the AYF. Being a small chapter and so far away from everyone else, it felt good for others to see how proud we are of our small, amazing community.”
AYF Central Executive (CE) chairman Nareg Mkrtschjan was delighted to see such a large turnout of athletes this year. “Congratulations to Giselle for winning the first gold medal in tennis for Granite City,” he said. “If I swap my CE hat and don my Varantian shirt, I admit I was proud to witness my home chapter sweep men’s tennis for the first time ever. No matter where you are from, watching Hagop play and add to his winning streak is something special indeed.”