2015 AYF Olympics: Coaches’ Comments

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By Bob Tutunjian

This section is a compilation of quotes from some of the coaches who were involved in the preparation of their teams for this year’s Olympics.



This year’s winning Providence Chapter was coached by a team of several alumni. One of them was long-time “Varantian” stalwart and newly crowned Olympic King Steve Elmasian, who shared his thoughts on the Games this year:

“Practices began in early July and grew week by week, right up until just a few days before the Labor Day Weekend. If there is one word to describe my thoughts regarding this group of dedicated athletes and coaches, it’s ‘team.’ Everyone understood their place. No one was asked to do more than they were capable of, but they were all asked to do what was expected of them. We had members try events they had never even heard of before. We had others serve as mentors and member coaches in practice and on the weekend of Olympics. Records fell and personal bests were achieved, but more than all of that was the commitment and effort made at every talent level.

Team Providence

“Some cried when they fell short. Others cried when they outdid their own expectations.

“Some may ask, how or why do we as coaches do this year after year after year? If you were lucky enough to be blessed with the kind of member/athletes we have here in Providence, you wouldn’t hesitate to make the effort as well. This group of young men and women are now part of a history that has spanned eight decades. You could see the culmination of months of preparation and efforts at all levels of the organization reach its apex on Sunday night at the Rhode Island Convention Center, when the Providence team was called up to dance the ‘Hey Jon.’ I’ve never seen a group of that size dancing this traditional song with five rings of circles dancing in rhythm. The spoils of victory were worth all the effort.

“As you may have noticed, no names were mentioned. That’s because there is no ‘I’ in team.

“Every point mattered as we felt the pressure of a large and talented team from Boston breathing down our necks. From Friday morning at tennis and golf, to a surprisingly successful night of swimming, we put ourselves in position for our 40th title. Softball was a short day but we held our own after a shaky start. When Sunday morning came, most to all of our athletes at the field were wearing the Providence green. Green is a lucky color so say the Irish. But this year we were also prepared and determined to do our best whether we were successful or came up short.

“Looking forward to the Victory Ball on Jan. 23 when we will dance the ‘Hey Jon’ once again.”


Greater Boston

Greater Boston placed second this year and is coached by Ara Krafian. Ara is one of the highest scorers in AYF history and a past Governing Body member. He shared his feelings:

“2015 was a nice bounce back year for the ‘Nejdehs.’ Many of our Junior transfers made a significant impact in their first year competing as Seniors. Katarena Nalbandian, Anoush Krafian, Daron Hamparian, and Taline Guzelian all scored points as 16-year-olds.

Team Boston

“We came out strong on Friday with 10 points in women’s golf behind Michelle Hagopian’s win, followed by Mari and Ani Hackett, while Daron Merian added a third on the men’s side. We continued our strong start later that night in the pool. Katarena Nalbandian shined with wins in the 50 m breast and 100 m free and a second in the 25 m butterfly for 13 points. Melanie Aftandilian, Carnie Armenian, Sevan Dulgarian, Tamar Merian, and Anoush Krafian all scored points for the women.

“On the men’s side, it was primarily Eric Movsesian with a win in the 50 m backstroke and 10 points overall. Shant Mahrokhian, Daron and Kevork Hamparian joined Eric to capture one last point in the relay before we closed the books on Friday.

“Despite some tough ailments and injuries to Kevork Ourfalian, Vigen Sarkisov, Araxi Krafian, and future star Vasken Kebabjian, who missed the meet altogether due to a hip flexor suffered earlier in the week, we competed respectably on the track. Our youngest athletes, headed by Anoush Krafian and Alex Avakian, made a statement by setting four records on Sunday. Anoush, Daron Hamparian, Nairi Krafian, and Shant Mahrokhian joined to close the meet by lowering the 4×200 m co-ed relay record by more than a second.

“Our pentathletes worked hard all day. Nairi Krafian regained her crown by performing solidly in every event. As if the five events weren’t enough, she was a key contributor on two winning relay teams: the women’s 4×100 m and the 4×200 m co-ed, both of which Boston won by impressive margins. Despite not finishing first for the first time at Seniors, Vigen Sarkisov had an incredible meet. He started the day with a badly bruised heel and pulled hamstring and finished the day finishing second by the narrowest of margins after gritting out a solid 1500 m run. Despite having pain, especially in the long jump and 200 m dash, Vigen took one for the team and ran a ‘Vigen’ like anchor leg to overtake Providence at the wire to push Boston to a win in the 4×100 m relay.

“We were well represented in the sprints with Araxi Krafian taking second and Ani Hackett third in the women’s 50 m dash. Taline Guzelian scored her first Senior point with a fourth in the 200 m dash, while Sevan Dulgarian took a third in the 800 m. On the men’s side, Shant Mahrokhian took two very close seconds in the men’s 100 m and 200 m dashes. Sam Chakmakjian scored 7 points with two seconds in the high jump and 3200 m run and a fourth in the mile, while big brother Daniel won the 110 m hurdles.

“As a coach, parent, mentor, and supporter to this group of great kids, I can say with pride that they exceeded my expectations with inspiring acts of fraternalism. For me, the most poignant moment of the entire Olympics was the genuine pride our Juniors and Seniors took in marching together with their [Armenian Genocide] survivor posters. They truly appreciated the significance of that moment given our Genocide Centennial. These posters and the entire ‘Stand Up For Your Survivor’ program was founded by one of our home grown Nejdehs, Anahis Kechejian.”



Former Philadelphia star and past Governing Body member Dave Papazian has recently started to help coach the “Sebouhs.” He gave his thoughts on their third-place performance this year:

“I think the thing that stands out the most: I watched most of these kids grow up as AYF Juniors, and for most I was even their Alumni Junior adviser at one point. Now to see them evolve into a cohesive team of young adults and push each other to succeed was amazing. I watched the experienced members coax the younger members through the day, which is a tough chore when you are trying to convince over-worked young athletes to run relays at 4:30 p.m. We also had throwers like Tavit Frounjian and Gevork Dramgotchian willing to fill in for the 4×400 when a couple of our runners had nothing left. That, to me, was the sign of a real team. Every team needs a leader, and Avi Keshgegian is our glue, the one who can span the older and younger members and bring them together.

Team Philadelphia

“As for individual stories, the best for me was Emily Selverian, who was in her first Senior Olympics just like my son Eric. She dedicated herself to practices, and I am not sure she liked doing some of the running I gave her to prepare for her jumps, but she did her work. She learned the long jump and triple jump, but we could not find a place to teach her how to high jump this summer. At 8:30 a.m. on Sunday we showed up at the track and she “crash-coursed” different high jump techniques and picked her favorite. Unfortunately for me with all the running around, I missed the women’s high jump, but her older siblings were there to support her. She glowingly came up to me afterwards and told me, ‘Mr. Papazian I jumped four feet!’ I was as ecstatic as she was, and asked her what place she got and she said ‘I think maybe 5th…’ We later heard it announced that she had won a bronze and we had a second celebration.

“As many of you can personally understand, when Eric began his 800 I told someone that I am not coaching right now, I am a dad, and it was really cool to watch him go. He was going to run the 200 and 400 no matter what, and had to choose between the 800 and the 100. When he chose the 800, I thought he was nuts, but he made the right choice.”

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: 2015 AYF Olympics: Coaches’ Comments