Friday at the AYF Olympics

Share this:

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—What a day Fri., Sept. 4 was at the 82nd Annual AYF Olympics in Providence. In anticipation of the golf, tennis, and swimming events, and the Friday Night Dances, the day began with a note of sadness as many learned that Kacheg “Furcha” Topalian, a pillar of the Providence community and father of Governing Body member Ken Topalian, had passed away on Mon., Aug. 31. He so wanted to be present at one last Olympics, but alas was not able to. Everyone expressed their sympathies and at the same time everyone knew that Furcha would have insisted that the games and the weekend progress on. Our deepest sympathies to the family. Asdvadz hokin lousavoreh.

The host chapter, the Providence “Varantians,” dialed in a simply gorgeous day of clear skies, temperatures in the 70’s, and a light breeze. It was the perfect weather for the first day of competition.


L to R: Michelle Hagopian, Mari Hackett, and Lauran Yangouyian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

The day began early for the golfers. Alumni and AYF golfers began to arrive at the beautiful Pawtucket Country Club at around 7:30 a.m. Governing body member Ken Topalian and Melissa Danielian organized and ran the event to perfection, from having warm cheoreg on hand for everyone, Armenian flags on every pin, a shotgun start, and a buffet luncheon after the round. There were more than 50 Alumni golfers, including past Olympic Queen Rosemary Panosian and her son Steve, who was crowned King last year in Detroit. It was great to see the Guzelian foursome as well.

As for AYFers, eight men and four women participated. The results are as follows:


  1. Peter Tashjian (Philadelphia)
  2. Mark Santerian (Philadelphia)
  3. Daron Merian (Greater Boston)
  4. Shahen Hagen (North Andover)

  1. Michelle Hagopian (Greater Boston)
  2. Lauren Yangouyian (Detroit)
  3. Mari Hackett (Greater Boston)
  4. Ani Hackett (Greater Boston)

L to R: Daron Merian, Peter Tashjian, and Mark Santerian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

Teammates and buddies Peter Tashjian and Mark Santerian continue to battle every year for first and second for the men. Michelle Hagopian continued her dominance on the women’s side.



The tennis tournament took place at the tennis courts on the beautiful campus of Bryant University in Smithfield. Governing body member Rich Sarajian organized and ran the event, assisted by incoming Governing Body member Michael Varadian. There were 11 women and 14 men registered to play tennis. The matches were all excellent; the semi-finals and finals were very competitive, per usual. The results are as follows:


  1. Alana Wyatt (Worcester)
  2. Katia Ariyan (New Jersey)
  3. Olivia Barberian (North Andover)
  4. Kenar Charchafian (Worcester)

Kenar Charchafian returning a backhand (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

Alana and Katia were participating in their first Olympics and were wonderful. Alana is the best power hitter in recent Olympic history, and was very impressive. Evenly matched veterans Olivia and Kenar—like in the past few years—took their match to a tie-breaker.

The competition was equally spirited on the men’s side, with the following results:


  1. Hagop Taraksian (Providence)
  2. Kyle Byrd (Providence)
  3. Gabriel Chahinian (Toronto)
  4. Matthew Tarzian (New Jersey)

Providence dominated with Hagop Taraksian taking the gold handily from teammate Kyle Byrd, who may have expended himself in a hard fought match with Gabriel Chahinian to get to the finals. Matthew Tarzian, a never say die competitor, fought off some severe cramping to take Hagop Taraksian to a tie-breaker in the semis.

Kyle Byrd, Hagop Taraksian, and Gabriel Chahinian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

Katia Airyan, Alana Wyatt, Olivia Barberian, and Kenar Charchafian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)



Pool action (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

The Organizing Committee found a great venue for the swimming events—at an outdoor, eight-lane pool at the MacColl YMCA in Lincoln. It was great being outdoors. As the sun was setting, it did get cooler making it a bit cold for the swimmers getting out of the pool. Also, if the meet did not run as efficiently as it did, there would have been a small issue of there being no lights in this outdoor pool.

Swimming was well attended, as it always is. The YMCA personnel scrambled to bring in more stands to accommodate the fans.

While not having the official results yet, the best count from our staff statisticians are that Providence earned 49 points, Boston 38, followed by Detroit and Worcester. Providence took the last two freestyle relays.

Team Providence (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

It was great to see Andrew Devejian of Chicago participate in his first Olympics and gain immediate notice. He took two firsts and a second.


Friday Night Dances

Kevork Artinian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

One of the great things about having the Olympics in Providence is being in downtown at the lovely Omni Providence Hotel, which is connected to the impressive and spacious Rhode Island Convention Center where the dances are held.

The evening began with the ever-popular Alumni Dance. The local committee provided a wonderful selection of Armenian foods that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Music was provided by a classic group: Mike Gostanian (vocals), Joe Kouyoumjian (oud), Hachig Kazarian (clarinet), Ken Kalajian (guitar and bass), and Jason Naroian (dumbeg and vocals).

A scene from the dance floor (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

The band was wonderful and the dance floor was full the entire evening.

Immediately after it was time for most alumni to go to sleep, the Hook-Up began with the band that took the energy to a higher level and, as they say, “really lit up the joint.” The group was made up of Kevork Artinian (vocals), Steve Vosbikian (clarinet), Rich Berberian (oud), George Tebrejian (keyboard), Jim Kizirian (drums), and Raffi Massoyan (dumbeg).


Awards, Honors, and Records

Peter Tashjian, Alexan Topalian accepting the Varadian Spirit Award for their grandfather Kacheg Topalian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

A recently established tradition of the Friday night Alumni Dance is to announce the Olympic Kings and Queens as well as the Varadian Spirit Award winners.

The newly crowned Queens are Maro Varadian Khachadourian and Shushan Kassabian Tutunjian.

The Kings are Stephen Elmasian and Varoujan Karentz.

The Varadian Spirit Award was established in 2008 and is clearly an award with Providence roots. This is the second Providence Olympics in the tenure of this most special award. The recipients this year were indeed special and emotional: Anto Bahian, Penny Atamian Giragosian (posthumously), and Kacheg Topalian (who, as stated above, passed away last week).

It was great to see Shushan Tutunjian be named Queen. She was a great athlete and competitor for years, and most deserving of being a Queen. While this was quite special, earlier in the evening her daughter Lynne swam her last Olympic event. Lynne, as we are used to seeing, won the event. In doing so, she not only secured another high-scorer honor for herself and her team, but she earned enough points to surpass Jill Tosoian Dolik and Nancy Gavoor, becoming the all-time Women’s High Scorer. It was a most special evening for the Tutunjian family.

Congratulations to all of the award recipients!

Friday was a great day at the AYF Olympics, with even more to come on Saturday and Sunday.


Members of the AYF Central Executive (Photo: Mark Gavoor)


Garry Giragosian accepting Varadian Spirit Award for the late Penny Atamian Giragosian


King Stephen Elmasian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)


King Varoujan Karentz (Photo: Mark Gavoor)


Queen Maro Vardanian Khachadourian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)


The Tutunjians (Photo: Mark Gavoor)


Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Friday at the AYF Olympics