Tokyo 2020 –Artur Aleksanyan vows to once again show Armenian might to the world
YEREVAN, MAY 24, ARMENPRESS. The independent Republic of Armenia has so far only two Olympic Champions, both Greco-Roman wrestlers. The first to conquer the Olympic gold was Armen Nazaryan, who is now coaching the Bulgarian national wrestling team. The next to have won the Olympic championship was Artur Aleksanyan, the renowned Armenian athlete hailing from Gyumri. Aleksanyan, an Olympic gold medalist (Rio 2016), a three-time World Champion and five-time European Champion is now once again preparing for the Olympics, the Tokyo 2020.
Aleksanyan sat down with ARMENPRESS’s Varvara Hayrapetyan for her Road to Dream – Tokyo 2020 exclusive.
- Some of the legendary athletes say that becoming an Olympic champion is difficult, but retaining the title is much more difficult. Do you agree?
- I think it’s difficult to become a champion of the Olympic Games. But I also think that keeping the title is also difficult. Anyhow, both are difficult. After the last Olympic Games, until now and the one year which was delayed, there wasn’t a single day that I didn’t devote myself entirely for the goal of winning my second Olympic gold.
- The Olympic Games were postponed for a year. How did that impact you?
- It would’ve been better if the games were held in 2020 as planned. But what can you do, what happened, happened. This delay was for all athletes, and all of us are in the same conditions. I hope everything will be alright. Nothing has changed for me, I am approaching and preparing for the Olympics with the same goals.
- Our country went through difficult times, first the COVID-19 pandemic and then the war. Did this impact your motivation?
- All of this impacted not just me but our entire team. I think every Armenian was impacted by what happened, by the war. But on the other hand, the war and everything that happened is giving us more strength to prove to the world that we are here, we are strong, and we will thrive. We will show the world and we will keep our flag high.
- At the last Olympics, Rio 2016, everyone was touched when during your medal ceremony you wore a shirt with the photo of posthumous Hero of Artsakh title recipient, junior sergeant Robert Abajyan. Do you think of repeating a tribute like this?
- Honestly, yes, I have thought about something like that, but after Rio 2016 Azerbaijan complained and there were big problems over it. But I also have a warning not to do something like that again. If not for the warning, perhaps I would’ve think about doing something like that in case of winning, but let’s see how it goes this time.
- You are one of the long-time members of the Armenian Olympic team. Does your experience over the years and participation in several Olympic Games help you now?
- The Tokyo 2020 will be my third Olympic Games. I have to say that I am approaching it differently than during the first and second times. I was very tense and emotional during the London games. But now I am colder, I view it differently, and this is better for me.
- You are the only one who has experience in the Olympic Games among the Greco-Roman athletes who will compete at the Tokyo 2020. Do you give the other athletes any advice so they don’t get as anxious as you did before?
- I’ve talked to them a lot about participation in the Olympic Games. I can see that they are going through what I went through during my first time at the Olympics. I try to share my experience with them. I tell them to look at the Olympics as a tournament and not think about other things. When you think about the fact that the Olympics are held once every 4 years, tension grows and you are unable to deliver your maximum.
- Does the psychological preparedness of the athletes matter more?
- The history of the Olympic Games shows that those who are psychologically ready are the ones who win. There are many wrestlers who’ve won several European and World championships, but have failed to win any medals while participating in one or two Olympics. During the Olympic Games, the athletes who are most expected to win a medal or gold in particular are the ones who mostly perform poorly.
- This doesn’t go for you, does it?
- It seems that I am not like that, although my lack of experience was showing itself in London.
- In your weight category you are one of the unique athletes who doesn’t have a lack of titles. What do you think about your opponents?
- I’ve always faced strong opponents. Now they aren’t few as well. I don’t underestimate any of them. Now, wrestling has reached a point where you can’t separate weak and very strong opponents. Now, many countries who were weak in this sport where able to develop good teams through good coaches. You can see that the teams who were once considered weak have rather developed.
Aleksanyan, who will turn 30 in October, says he doesn’t think about retirement yet.
“I haven’t thought about it yet,” he said when asked whether or not he considers quitting after Tokyo 2020. “However, I’ve always wanted to retire from sport victoriously. Looking at other wrestlers who’ve retired after suffering defeats, I’ve always wanted to finish with victories. I know it’s going to be difficult, but retiring with victories is what I want. But no, I haven’t thought about retiring after Tokyo 2020.
- Is it possible that you try UFC?
- No, I don’t think so. I am now focused on wrestling. I can say that I wouldn’t even want to fight at UFC. I can’t see myself without sport.
- There are wrestlers who start coaching after retirement. Can you see yourself in that role?
- No, I don’t want that either. But I want to help Armenian sport anyway I can, and pass down my experience and knowledge to the younger generation. But I still don’t know in what status.
Asked about his expectations from the sports school bearing his name which is currently under construction in Gyumri, he said: “You might frequently see me there. When it opens it will be not only a training center for wrestling but a big sports training facility. It will be a wonderful gift for the city of Gyumri, because it is a sport city.
Editing and Translating by Stepan Kocharyan