Galstyan Representing Russia Instead of Armenia in the 2012 Olympics

By: Janet Shamilian

Is it acceptable that Arsen Galstyan represented Russia over Armenia?

On July 28, 2012, judoka Arsen Galstyan won the gold medal for Russia, securing the country’s first gold medal in judo after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This victory came within 41 short seconds into the final, a clear manifestation of Galstyan’s unparalleled talent in the men’s 60-kilogram weight class. Born in Armenia during the time of the Soviet Union, Galstyan stated, “I flew to London only for the gold and I’ve achieved my goal. What’s my next target? The next Olympics.” True Armenian confidence!

What should we make of Galstyan representing Russia instead of Armenia? This was a topic of debate within the Armenian community immediately following Galstyan’s monumental triumph. Undeniably, it would have been incredible if Galstyan represented Armenia. A gold medal for our homeland. However, just because he did not represent Armenia does not make him less of an Armenian. It surely does not give any members of the Armenian community any basis to deplore his achievement for Russia. This dissatisfying viewpoint does not allow one to appreciate the true magnitude of Galstyan’s success. After all, Galstyan, an Armenian was first to open Russia’s medal bank.

At the age of seven, Galstyan moved with his family to Giaginskaya, Adygea in Russia. Joining the Armenian diaspora, Galstyan was raised in Russia. Factoring that the country has better resources and supported Galstyan in his quest, it is understandable why he would represent the country that provided him with the adequate materials and means to such an accomplishment. Perhaps if he did not have the experiences and fortunes in Russia, he would have never been as exercised and ready to compete in the Olympics. For this, it is vital for him and other athletes to resort to means that will allow nourishment and growth towards their full potential. Instead of ostracizing him, we have to applaud his dedication and his vehement drive. His representation of Russia does not make Galstyan any less Armenian. Branching off this argument, the near seven million Armenians in the diaspora would have to be considered “less Armenian” since we are, indirectly, representing the country we have immigrated to every single day. If a diasporan Armenian succeeds in another country, then Armenians as a whole have succeeded. This power of unification is what we need within our community. We should rejoice over the fact that his talent has been recognized internationally. An ARMENIAN’s talent has been renowned.

This seeps into the importance of unification for Armenians all across the world. We should collectively be proud of him. Just because he did not win the gold medal for Armenia does not mean that merit is not extended to our country. He represented Armenia and Russia in his Olympic success. This is a victory for the Armenian diaspora and our Armenian nation.

Congratulations Arsen Galstyan! From all Armenians – you have made us incredibly proud. The glistening gold of your medal reflects your golden people. Thank you.


6 thoughts on “Galstyan Representing Russia Instead of Armenia in the 2012 Olympics

  1. Although I agree with most of the points you have made in your article and also agree that Arsen should not be considered “less Armenian” and I’m certainly proud of him, but I still think as an Armenian, he should have represented Armenia and not Russia, just like Pau Gasol is representing Spain, as matter of fact there are 25 foreign NBA players and countless of other atheletes in the U.S. and abroad who are representing their respective countries at the 2012 London Olympics even though they live and train elsewhere.
    Just because he moved and trained in a different country that should never stop him from being an Armenian and representing the land that he was born in.

    • Mher, Arsen was trained by an Italian coach that was hired with the Russian government money to train him (and other russian athletes.) He himself said that this coach was the reason he was able to unfold his potential. In Armenia, people have no food and young people have no jobs and no means and are leaving Armenia in big numbers because of that. The Armenain team has not performed adequately in the Olimpics not because there is no talent or potential, b ut because there is no money and conditions to train. Perhaps when we all start investing in Armenia, we’ll start producing our own champoions. For now we just have to be happy for Arsen’s victory. Great job Arsen!

  2. I am happy to see how you have represented Armenia through this amazing achievement! Details were firm and clear. I had heard an “Armenian” male had taken the title of winning a gold medal but was left with many questions. Thank you for clarifying all the questions I had, and informing me with new facts! Proud to be Armenian and take pride in our Armenian champion.

  3. As the saying goes…
    You can take the boy out of the village but you can’t take the village out of him.
    He is Armenian no matter where he goes in his life.

  4. I completely agree with you Janet! We don’t know his exact reasoning but it seems pretty straight forward. He was adopted by Russia since he was seven. It has raised him and provided for him. Him choosing to represent Russia should not hold back our pride. He is one of us. An Armenian living in the diaspora and we should be nothing less than proud!

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