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.