Shavarsh Karapetyan to celebrate birthday with his family
YEREVAN, MAY 19, ARMENPRESS. The prominent Armenian finswimmer, World and European champion, best known for saving the lives of 20 people in a 1976 incident in Yerevan, Shavarsh Karapetyan is going to celebrate his birthday anniversary with his family members.
In a conversation with “Armenpress”, Shavarsh Karapetyan underscored: “I begin the day in the workplace and then, naturally, I will celebrate my birthday anniversary with my family members. It’s Monday, but we have decided to celebrate it in the weekend. There will be a lot of people, I guess.” Among other things, Shavarsh Karapetyan noted that he will indispensably pay a visit to Yerevan in summer. “By all means, I will come, if you invite me.” Karapetyan noted laughing.
Karapetyan was born in 1953 in Armenia's third largest city of Kirovakan (now called Vanadzor), then part of the Soviet Union. His family moved to Yerevan in 1964, where Shavarsh finished eight years of school and then attended a technical school of auto-mechanics. By the advice of family friends, he started to learn swimming at a young age. He later switched to finswimming. In 1975-1976, Karapetyan served in a Soviet Air Defence Forces base in the Baku military district.
Karapetyan, Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, ten-time finswimming World Record-breaker, is better known in the former USSR for one particular day of his life, September 16, 1976. On that day, training with his brother Kamo, also a finswimmer, by running alongside the Yerevan Lake, Karapetyan had just completed his usual distance of 20 km (12 mi) when he heard the sound of the crash and saw the sinking trolleybus which had gone out of control and fallen from the dam wall.
The trolleybus lay at the bottom of the reservoir some 25 metres (80 ft) offshore at a depth of 10 metres (33 ft). Karapetyan swam to it and, despite conditions of almost zero visibility, due to the silt rising from the bottom, broke the back window with his legs. The trolleybus was crowded, it carried 92 passengers and Karapetyan knew he had little time, spending some 30 to 35 seconds for each person he saved.
Karapetyan managed to rescue 20 people (he picked up more, but 20 of them survived), but this ended his sports career: the combined effect of cold water and the multiple wounds he received (scratched by glass), left him unconscious for 45 days.