Olympic Royalty: A Family Legacy, Richard and Richard

There have not been many times when kings or queens have been both parents and then their kids recognized; this is one of those years.

It started with Jack Kachadourian (first Olympic king), followed by wife Maro (Olympic queen) and now their offspring.

Levon Kachadourian and Debbie Kachadourian Salerno, joined by Richard Ovian and Richard Tashjian, shared the spotlight of royalty Friday night at Olympics in well-presented and appreciated ceremonies. Presided over by the AYF Central Executive, Alumni night in “Ooster” was dynamic and special, like the whole weekend.

Levon Kachadourian is a well-known athlete in Greater Worcester, not just an AYF athlete.

He started his athletic career at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA, where he achieved school, state and regional recognition as an exceptional track and field and football star. He led his freshman football team to an undefeated season, scoring 12 touchdowns in five games and averaging over 20 yards per carry. He was the captain of the St. John’s football team his senior year, culminating with the selection as the honorary captain of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette All Star Team, with the note that he was the best running back that had been seen that year. In 2007, he was inducted into the St. John’s Hall of Fame. As captain of the St. John’s track team, he consistently won the 100, 220 and 440-yard races in meets throughout the years, as well as the District Championship in the 100 and 220-yard races in both his junior and senior years. He set the 220-yard record of 21.8 seconds at St. John’s in 1972 and later ran a 10.4 second 100-yard dash in the AYF Olympics (10.0 record held by Haig Bohigian and Rich Chebookjian).

He competed in football and track at the college level at Dean Jr. College and Worcester State, placing in several New England State Championship track meets.

Kachadourian’s AYF Olympics career was stellar as well. 

He achieved 32 career points from 1969-1977 while missing four of his eight years during that time. His best year was in 1970 in Montreal when he won the 440 and took third in both the 100 and 220-yard dashes. He was awarded the Ernest Nahigian Sportsmanship Award that year. In his last Olympics in 1977, he won the 220 and placed second in the 100.

After his football and AYF Olympics running days were over, he went on to train hundreds of Worcester “Aram” and high school and college athletes, as well as disadvantaged youth at training camps held at his Everlast Nursery in Leicester, MA. 

2022 AYF Olympic King Richard Ovian (Photo: Kenneth Martin)

Richard Ovian totaled 78 Olympic points, the second highest total for a male from Worcester in AYF Olympics history. During the 1970s and 80s, he participated in the competitive distance events, winning many, and was the Olympics high scorer in 1980 and 1983. His most memorable Olympics accomplishment was in 1979 in New York when he broke the Olympics records in the historic 800 and 1500-meter races, though finishing third and second. This athlete also competed in distance and marathon races around the world and has the second fastest time for an Armenian athlete in the Boston Marathon at 2:26. He competed in track at Assumption College and was inducted into its Hall of Fame. He continued his track career competing for the Bay State Striders and was sponsored to run internationally in the British Isles in Scotland. Ovian was an assistant track coach at St. John’s High School and went on to train and advise many Worcester “Aram” and high school athletes during the years. Unfortunately, Ovian’s running career ended in February 2009, when he was seriously injured in a car accident while riding his bike. 

Debbie Kachadourian Salerno, still known with affection as “Debbie Kach,” amassed 61 career points in her AYF athletic career, making her the second highest scoring female athlete in Worcester’s history. An accomplished multi-gold medalist swimmer, she competed from 1963 to 1967. She was undefeated in the 25 and 50-yard freestyle events and held the AYF record in both races when she retired. In her initial year of competition, she scored 14 points, winning the swimming event and tying for first place in the long jump. In 1966, she received high scorer honors with 12 points. With her two siblings, she was part of the strength and growth of AYF Olympic competitions for Worcester in the 60s and 70s.

Harry Kachadourian was also recognized for his instrumental role in keeping the Worcester “Aram” Chapter alive throughout the years.

Richard Tashjian joined the AYF in 1966 and went on to serve as president of the Worcester “Aram” Chapter. A longtime participant in the AYF Olympics, Tashjian totaled 34 career points, five gold medals and was a record-holder in the men’s two-mile for a number of years. He also coached fellow AYFers and junior members. He was chairman of the Steering Committee of the 1974 Olympics held in Worcester. Tashjian has also been active in his community. When the Worcester parish purchased the existing church building back in 1979-80, he was involved in the renovations, serving as chairman of the work for the lower level church hall. He has been an integral leader of the golf committee for the annual Holy Trinity Golf Tournament, a primary fundraiser for the church during the past decade. He’s run numerous marathons and countless road races, often traveling around the country to do so, including running the Boston Marathon six times. In the mid-70s, he was one of the founding members of the Central Mass Striders Running Club, which became one of the premiere running clubs in the state. 

Ooster Royalty 2022: classy personalities reflecting Worcester’s past and present!

Richard Ovian, Deb Kachadoorian Salerno, Levon Kachadoorian and Richard Tashjian (Photo: Sona Gevorkian)
Harry Derderian

Harry Derderian

Harry Derderian is a native of Indian Orchard, Mass and resident of S. Lyon, Mich. He is a member of the marketing faculty at Eastern Michigan University as well as an adjunct professor of business at Schoolcraft Community College.

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