Welcome to Beyond the Blue Domes, my personal blog. In earlier posts, I shared memories about growing up in Iran during the Shah's rule, fleeing the country at age thirty, raising a family in the United States, and facing the newness and challenges of American life. Lately I'm posting my thoughts on stories or news that have touched me. My theme is exploring social realities and the intersections within cultures, and preserving history. Thanks for stopping by.
Friday, 14 March 2014
Fateful Stories of an Armenian Athlete. The 2014 torch bearer in Moscow
Following is an amazing story of an Armenian athlete who fought many odds on different fateful moments.
Recently Shavarsh Karapetyan was granted the honor to take part in the 2014 Winter Olympics torch relay for the second stage of the race. He was passed the torch in Moscow and had to carry it towards Krasnogorsk. During his run in Moscow the Olympic fire suddenly went out. It was relit, but this led to much ridicule from western media outlets, eager to slam the Olympics held in Russia. On the next day he was allowed to carry the torch for a second time, making him the only person in Olympic history who carried the Olympic torch twice on the same event.
17 times world champion finswimmer, 13 times European champion and 7 times Soviet champion. Eleven-time World Record-breaker. This remarkable man has a fascinating history of saving lives and facing his own mortality.
When he was 15, he got into a fight with a group of hooligans who beat him, tied a heavy stone to his neck , thrown him into a lake and left. He started moving his body under water and managed to rip the ropes off his hands, after which he released himself from the stone on his neck and swam to the surface. In an interview he said:
“If the stone was slightly heavier, I would not be able to get out of the water”.
This experience encouraged him to take swimming lessons. He was so talented that he started to compete on a professional level. Teaching himself without a trainer, he became a champion of Armenia at the age of 17. He began to beat his popular peers but was cut from the national team by envious trainers. It was a hard time for the young swimmer, but he did not abandoned his calling. He switched to finswimming and within 6 months became the “master of sports of the Soviet Union”, in 8 months he became “master of international class”, within 12 months he became the champion of the Soviet Union and within 14 months he became the European champion by breaking the World record.
During his competitions in Kiev he nearly died again when a competent had opened his oxygen tank and let a good amount of oxygen out to make him lose the competition. Nevertheless he continued the swim, losing oxygen he had to hold his breath for 75 meters. Feeling his life slipping he lost his consciousness but won the event and was immediately hospitalized. He only heard of his victory in the hospital.
His courage was again tested in 1974 when Shavarsh was riding the morning bus to the swimming pool. During the ride, the driver lost control of the bus on the mountainous passage and was about to drive strait off the cliff. Shavarsh quickly jumped into the driver’s seat and was able to steer the bus away from the impending plunge, only half a meter from the side of the cliff. On that faithful day he saved 30 people including himself.
Two years later faith struck again. One cold morning on September 16th, 1976 he was doing his usual run along the dam in Yerevan (Armenia), when a large trolleybus carrying 92 passengers lost control and flew off the road into the freezing water. During the impact, most of the passengers fell unconscious – the bus sank approximately 10 meters deep. Without a second of hesitation, Shavarsh leaped into the freezing water to rescue people. Diving to the depth of 10 meters, Shavarsh used his feet to break the back window of the trolleybus. One by one, he saved 20 peoples’ lives (he actually pulled out more then 20, but not everyone made it). He spent nearly 20 minutes in the frigid water and accomplished 30 dives down to the wreck of the bus. His brother – Kamo Karapetyan – is also a swimmer, and took care of the injured people as Shavarsh brought them up to the surface.
After his 30th dive, Shavarsh lost consciousness. This courageous act has cost him dearly; he incurred heavy 2-sided pneumonia and blood contamination from the polluted water. Doctors were unsure if Shavarsh would ever recover. His life was hanging on by a thread while he stayed unconscious for 46 days. He finally recovered, but his professional career was at an end. Today’s experts agree that no one but Shavarsh could have done what he has done. Bystanders who watched Shavarsh bring people up to the surface said that his feet and back were full of glass shards.