Eduard Kalantaryan: Sports Reporter at Public Television of Armenia on sports

Summarizing results of the first quarter century of Armenia's independence in various spheres.

Text: Eduard Kalantaryan / Photos: Pan Photo, Arnos Martirosyan

Soviet heritage
I have been reporting professionally about sports for over twelve years. I have always been a sport lover, so I know this field. What we have now in the field of sports is mainly inherited from the Soviet times. It would be correct to say that the Soviet school was so strong that it laid a foundation for the future. The first years of the independence were a tough period in Armenia’s history. The war broke out, then there was a post-war period, but even in such a situation we had quite strong and successful sportspeople. They all were those who had started their carrier in the Soviet period. Thanks to them we managed to get quite good results.
From 1952 to 1988 Armenian sportspeople participated in Olympic Games as members of Soviet delegations. In 1992, after the USSR’s dissolution, Armenia took part in the Olympics as a part of Unified Team, which included athletes from former Soviet countries. It was exactly in 1994, when Armenia first participated in Olympic Games as an independent country. Since then the sportspeople from the Republic of Armenia participated in all Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The most remarkable moment was in 1996, when Armenian Greco-Roman wrestler Armen Mkrtchyan became the first ever Armenian athlete, who got a gold medal and became an Olympic Champion under the flag of his independent country. For two decades he was the only Olympic Champion in the history of independent Armenia, until wrestler Arthur Alexanian won the gold at the Rio Olympics this year. Gradually the generation of independence, I mean those sportspeople, who were already born in the independent country, began to “invade” this field. It is only now that their achievements can be seen. Many representatives of this generation took part in the Rio Olympics.  
It was considered to be an intermediate period starting from the mid-90’s to nowadays. It was such a difficult period for the development of the Armenian sports. The results were poor. There was a little ray of hope in football, but unfortunately we have to admit that it was just a short period with which did not last long. But we still hope that ray could have laid a foundation for the brighter future. A friend of mine keeps saying this country will finally become successful, when the last person, who was born in Soviet era, dies. I think it does not apply to sports, as there are a few coaches, who still continue to use Soviet methods while training the young generation. It is difficult to state distinctly, if those methods are good or outdated, but one thing is definitely a fact – the field of sports was much stronger and successful during the Soviet times. That was the result of the fact that we were living in a powerful country. I was born in the Soviet Union and I feel that advantage in my case. I used to be an athlete, everything was coordinated and centralized at that time. 15 countries were working for the realization of one single idea. The Soviet school was indeed stronger, but the conditions for trainings are just perfect now. So if the coaches are retrained or foreign professionals are invited to train our athletes and share their experience, we will definitely have success and tangible results.

The achievements of Independence
The formation of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Armenia in 1990 was one of the most significant achievements of independence. In 1993 it was already officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The NOC supports and encourages young Armenian sportspeople, finding solutions to various issues. The most important achievement for us is the feeling of being independent and self-determined. There are different [sports] federations functioning in Armenia, a number of sports venues have been opened in Yerevan recently. For instance the Technical Center-Football Academy opened in Yerevan’s Avan district is considered to be one of the best in the region, Yerevan Velodrome, which has a total area of 3,200 square meters and is equipped with different modern facilities, or the complex of Olimpavan, covering an area of 1,000 square meters and providing Armenian sportspeople with all the necessary conditions for their activities. Unfortunately these kind of venues are mainly centralized in Yerevan, I would like to see this kind of development in the regions of Armenia. I consider some of our sportspeople to be the greatest achievements for our independent country. We have Greco- Roman wrestler Arthur Alexanyan, who is a two-time World Champion, three-time European Champion and an Olympic bronze medal winner, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a footballer and an Armenian pride, who just debuted this season in Premiere League as a midfielder for Manchester United. These are the two Armenian sportsmen who are known worldwide in their fields.

Many people still refuse to consider chess to be sports. But due to chess once again the world heard of Armenia as a country possessing a successful field of sports. There have always been a number of strong athletes in the history of Armenian sports, successful sportsmen in wrestling, boxing, football and etc. But chess became the most successful sphere for us after we gained independence. Solid foundations for their success were laid since the Soviet time and modern strategies were added, so we got a great result. Levon Aronyan was born in Soviet Union, but become one of the symbols of independent Armenia. For me the term “independent Armenia” is associated with our chess players as well as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Arthur Alexanyan. Trust me, to represent an independent country is indeed a very encouraging experience for the athletes. The sportspeople hold the flag of their homeland, listening to the national anthem, ready to perform knowing, that they are children of an independent state.