BY ANAHID YEREMIAN
YEREVAN—Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, a 19 year-old Armenian cycler has won medals in every international competition of his age group that he has participates in. Born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia, Hovhannisyan trains with master trainers Albert Soloyan and Armen Gyozalian at the Olympic Cycling School in Yerevan.
I first met Hovik, as his friends call him, and his fellow cyclists when they joined the final few miles of our bike-a-thon in Armenia to raise awareness and funds for the scientists of the Cosmic Ray Division of Yerevan Physics Institute. Until then, I had no idea that a cycling school even existed in Armenia, let alone that they produced internationally recognized champions.
Hovhannisyan is a quiet and humble person, but when he gets on his bike, it’s the eye of the tiger. I had the privilege of watching him and other Armenian cyclists race at the velodrome in Yerevan in the All-Armenia races in June of 2013. There were many different kinds of races collectively called an Omnium: individual races of different lengths, team races, junior races, senior races, and one really interesting one called the elimination race. In the elimination race, just about every cyclist in the competition gets on the track and after the first round around the track the competition starts. The last person in the pack gets eliminated every two rounds. Last man still riding wins the race. In principle the last man will have ridden about 60 to 80 rounds depending on the number of the original competitors. So there are many different kinds of races and different athletes participate in different ones. Winners from the All Armenia races then represent Armenia in various international competitions.
Hovhannes Hovhannisyan’s collection of accomplishments include: first place at the European Track Championships in Anadia Portugal, July 2013; second place at the Warsaw Grand Prix, Poland, June 2013; three first place medal at the All Armenia Races, June 2013; first place at the Freedom Fighter Samvel Gevorgyan Memorial Race, Armenia, June 2013; second and third places at the Cup of Poland, May 2013; third place at the International Tour de Mazandaran race in Iran, September 2013 and second place in 2012; second place at the International Friendship Races in Donetsk, Ukraine, September 2011; and second place at the European Olympic Festival, Trabzon Turkey, July 2011.
Hovhanisyan also participated in the senior competitions in the Cup of Russia international races in Saint Petersburg this summer, where he competed against athletes several years older than him and took an impressive 8th place out of 300 participants.
The Armenian Olympic Cycling School is home to some 230 athletes from the ages of 10 to 30 who take the sport of cycling seriously. Its founder, Mr. Albert Soloyan, is an internationally respected trainer who has trained champions in Soviet Armenia and later in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Iran. In 2008 he returned home to Armenia to found the Armenian Olympic Cycling School and is training champions in his homeland. He, his capable staff, and hard-working talented athletes have revived the sport of cycling in Armenia with very limited resources. Not only have they revived it, they have caused Armenia to excel in it. Mr. Soloyan, the coaching staff, the team doctor, the team mechanic, and the administrative staff treat the athletes as their own. Besides training them as cyclists, they mentor them in life-skills. This school is another of the hidden gems in Armenia that deserves to be revealed to the world and supported by the Armenian government and by philanthropists in Armenia and the Diaspora.