Sunday at the AYF Olympics

When the AYF Olympics started in 1934, it was a track and field event on a humble grass field.  Since then, it has grown from a one-day event to a four-day sport and entertainment phenomenon. Track is still at the core of the Olympics, as it is where the bulk of the points for athletic events are won and where the chapter winner is decided.

Fans taking shade under the tents

This year, track and field took place at the beautiful Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, MD.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but we were in for a very Washington kind of mid-90s temperature and humidity. The Washington Steering Committee had dozens of tents for the athletes and fans. There was plenty of water and sports drinks to keep everyone hydrated. Yet nothing could stop the athletes from participating in the individual events and earning points for their chapters. 

Opening Ceremonies at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, MD
AYF Central Executive chair Nareg Mkrtschjan delivering his remarks as the other dignitaries look on
The Olympic Torch

The opening ceremonies reflected on the history and value of the AYF and the Olympics, as well as the plight of our people in Artsakh under siege by Azerbaijan. The athletes marched wearing t-shirts in honor of Artsakh, clearly stating “End the Blockade,” and carrying Artsakh flags. They sang the American, Armenian and Artsakh national anthems. His Eminence, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Artsakh Permanent Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, ARF Eastern US Central Committee chair Ani Tchaghlasian, ANCA chair Raffi Hamparian, AYF Central Executive chair Nareg Mkrtschjan and other speakers all offered messages of our need to be strong in the diaspora to support Armenia and Artsakh.

Expert and entertaining announcements and commentary were provided by Kyle Dinkjian and Avi Keshgegian. At the start of track and field, Boston had a good lead with Detroit trailing. When the total points were announced in the afternoon, Detroit had taken a slight lead. Detroit proceeded to win all the relays, at which point most in the know (the coaches) knew the results.

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The rest of us had to wait until the awards ceremony at the Olympic Ball at around 11 p.m. for the results. Mkrtschjan read the point totals, and Detroit had indeed won. Here are the top five chapters and their point totals:

  1. Detroit – 200
  2. Great Boston156.5
  3. Philadelphia72.5
  4. Providence – 64
  5. New Jersey – 49
  6. New York – 30

    The winning Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter

The most improved chapter trophy went to Chicago. Anto Keshgegian was awarded the Nahigian Spirit Trophy.  

There were six high scorers (three gold medals in individual events):

  1. Natalia Oganesian – Providence
  2. Nareg Minassian – Greater Boston
  3. Knar Topouzian – Detroit
  4. Melanie Sarafian – Detroit
  5. Alexander Dardarian – Philadelphia
  6. Avo Sarkissian – New York 

    High scorers at the Olympic Ball

The women’s and men’s pentathlon winners were:

  1. Anoush Krafian – Greater Boston
  2. Sasoun Tcholakian – Detroit

Two records were broken this weekend:

  1. Anoush Krafian – Women’s Pentathlon
  2. Natalia Oganesian – 50 Butterfly

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There was music and dancing at the Olympic Ball before the awards ceremony, and it kicked into high gear after the awards as Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit celebrated with their chapter dances. Everyone was celebrating and hoisting their trophies. It was beautiful and captured the essence of the AYF Olympics.

The Olympic All-Star Band with Hooshere Bezdikian and Michael Gostanian on vocals

Musicians John Berberian, Mal Barsamian, Steve Vosbikian, Ara Dinkjian, Jim Kizirian and Alek Surenian were superb and kept things hopping. They were tight, well-balanced and played all the favorites expertly. Hooshere Bezdikian and Michael Gostanian did a wonderful job on vocals. This is the first time we have had a female singer join the All-Star Band at the Olympic Ball and two singers performing duets. Chalk up another innovation to the Washington Steering Committee.

The 89th AYF Olympics were superbly organized and well run. Kudos to the Washington community and the Steering Committee for creating another memorable Olympics weekend. It takes a small well-organized army to pull off a weekend like the one we just experienced.

Congratulations to all the athletes, to those who scored points and those who participated for the love of the Olympics. Congratulations to the AYF and the Armenian spirit.

Be sure to look for more in-depth coverage of the entire AYF Olympics in D.C. in the Armenian Weekly Olympics Special Issue. If you’d like to support the publication of this special insert, we invite you to become a page sponsor.

Mark Gavoor
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.
Mark Gavoor

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  1. Timely and thorough coverage. Thank you Mark.
    It is particularly important to note the athletes wearing
    Artsakh tee shirts. Somewhere in besieged Artsakh ,
    people are reading about our AYF youth and are
    inspired to carry on.

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