The 31st Rio Summer Olympic Games are now history. At the best Olympics in the history of independent Armenia Armenian athletes won 4 medals – one gold and three silver medals. This is an official number. Armenia has two champions for everybody - Greco-Roman wrestlers Artur Aleksanyan and Migran Arutyunyan. The medal stolen by referees didn’t deprive him of being a real champion. In an extensive conversation with the ANOC press service Migran Arutyunyan spoke about his career path, stolen dream, tears and further plans.
-Migran, I want to start from the beginning. What preparatory phases did you have before Rio?
-After the European Championship I spent two training camps separately and four training camps with the team. As I was psychologically in a very good mood I spent all the training camps with great pleasure. I want to thank the team’s head coach, Levon Julfalakyan, and the coaching staff for such a work.
-After your performance at the European Championship many people began to treat you with skepticism.
-Yes, I was treated with skepticism. I must say that from the beginning we thought that I would compete at 71kg for not to lose so much weight but then it was decided to include me in my weight class. But I want to say that before the beginning of great events such as Olympic Games it’s rather advantageous to be treated with skepticism and not as a leader, it helps you to prepare quietly.
-You were preparing for the Olympics with a serious injury, we can say with one hand. Weren’t you concerned that in the most important moment your hand would stop you?
-I was fighting against my body (laughs). I didn’t want to agree with what it wanted and it didn’t want to accept my decision. During the last training camp I took so many painkillers that my all schedule was disrupted. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain but pressing my fists and teeth I was convincing myself and my body to endure and that everything would be over soon.
-People that have always followed you, noticed that there was another Migran in Rio with cold, maybe even cruel expression on his face. Who was that Migran Arutyunyan?
-4, 5, 8 years ago, before the Rio Olympics I decided to prepare specially for the Games. First of all I prepared myself psychologically. I managed to steel myself out of the mat, and if I steel myself out of it I can steel myself on it without any difficulty. I was going there only with one thing on my mind – to win. I saw no other way, no excuse, no doubt. I had dismissed negative thoughts because if I doubted a moment I would go to Rio already lost deep down. Besides, my relatives and their faith helped me much. But the most important was to feel God’s presence. I always feel his support on the mat, out of it, before and after bouts. On the mat, when it seemed that I was tired I felt that some supernatural force inside of me was pushing me ahead. I think I could spend 3 more bouts with the same energy.
-After the semi-finals where you had gained advantage over world champion, Azerbaijani Rasul Chunaev, you celebrated the victory giving a salute. A gesture which was made many times by Chunaev. Did you feel the desire of making such a gesture on the spot?
-I want to say sincerely that at that moment there was not a drop of hatred towards Chunaev human or Chunaev athlete inside me. I have never been filled with hatred towards Azerbaijani or Turk athletes. The gesture was spontaneous. I remember many bouts when after winning Armenian athletes Chunaev celebrated the victory with that gesture. In 2014 during the world Championship when Varsham Boranyan entered the mat with a serious injury and because of it lost to Chunaev in a few seconds, the whole world was talking about how the Azerbaijani disgraced the Armenian athlete, won him and gave a salute to his president. I did it so that no athlete from Azerbaijan, Turkey of some other country never repeats it because one day they will lose too. As an athlete I ask and appeal to them not to do gestures that can offend my country and my nation. I’d like to express my respect for the same Chunaev, he is really a wonderful athlete and I think a good man, too. I wouldn’t like to offend him personally with this gesture.
-Migran you have become a victim of referees’ biased decision for several times. Even people far from sport saw and understood what happened in Rio. What do you think, what is it and when will it stop?
-Maybe the reason is that I have mustered the courage to say to some people that I’m leaving, it’s enough and it’s the end. I came here and represented my country and motherland. Many people didn’t like it. Unfair judging hasn’t affected me as an athlete but it turns out that these decisions deprive me of the most desired medals. Before going to Rio I was looking for explanations, convincing myself that I had an Olympic qualification and when I would become an Olympic champion, in the gold medal I’d see my all three medals (of European Games, World Championship and Olympic Games). But we see the reality. Now I don’t find any explanation or excuse, I don’t want to hear anyone’s explanations; this is the worst robbery that can be committed towards the athlete that has spent 15 years fighting for that medal. As an Olympic champion I was left empty-handed but as a person I became rich. I am happy, I see that people love me, feel sorry for me, for what happened, they want to change the situation but it’s beyond the power of ordinary people to change something. This is a wonderful, indescribable feeling. But this love and adoration won’t change my human nature.
-When did you understand that everything was over, after the whistle or…?-When my coaches challenged the referee’s decision there were 5 seconds left to the end of the bout. I thought of doing the last attempt but when the bout continued my opponent was standing too far. At that moment I realized that the bout was spoiled. Actually, I understood it from the first parterre but I don’t want to think about it.
-What happened after the whistle in the changing room?
-A tragedy… (falls silent). In general I am very restrained in expressing my emotions and I am able to restrain especially pain very well. When children are born, they cry, I was sleeping when I was born and my cry and tears in Rio where the tears that dropped after 27 years. I was confused, I wanted to calm down and not to show my tears to the audience but I couldn’t. Maybe, that’s what saved me.
-During the award ceremony you raised you head and was murmuring something. I think you were saying something to God. What words were those?
-It was noticeable (smiles). I raised my head and said, ‘’My god, why so…?’’ But I regretted immediately and apologized. I have no right to ask him why, to complain him about everything I have. He had given me an opportunity to make a history, I failed to do it but he did it though me.
-It seemed that you were going to give, return the silver medal to somebody after the award ceremony. What kept you back?
-When after the award ceremony we were being photographed I wanted to take the medal, hang it around Stefanek’s neck and leave silently and never return. I was standing watching how he ‘’was tasting’’ my gold medal, exposing before cameras something that belonged to me. I wanted to leave but at that moment my daughter appeared before my eyes and I thought that if I gave the medal which though had the wrong color I’d give Stefanek my suffering, work and the path I had passed. I changed my mind though I know that many people would like my gesture, especially the spectators but I didn’t do it. I left silently, maybe for returning again.
-Were you expecting such a reception?
-I was expecting a warm reception but this kind of.
-The President of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia, Gagik Tsarukyan, gave you a gold medal and your photo is posted next to Olympic champions’ photos. Is it comforting?
-I see photos, skirts, videos with the following writing everywhere, ‘’Olympic champion Migran Arutyunyan’’. Nobody mentions a silver medalist. This inspires much, my heart beats fast, I shiver, my eyes shine but nothing changes the official fact. My Azerbaijani friend wrote me that if I had that medal officially, I wouldn’t have my nation’s love. He said to me, ‘’I am proud and happy for you. Yes, you didn’t become an Olympic champion, but you became a national champion, and it is more important.’’
-You were constantly shouting something at the airport.
-I was asking about Monica – my daughter. I couldn’t see anyone. It was such a wave… it was indescribable.
-You cried again. Were those tears of happiness?
-I revived everything at that moment again. I was crying of that warmth, love and regret. I realized that I could have given a gold medal to those people, to my nation. They deserve it.
-What kind of man is Migran Arutyunyan after the Rio 2016?
-Nothing has changed – simple, modest, and wonderful.
-What will be now?
-I will start a new era, my era both in life and sport. And if I return I will return prepared not by 100 percent but by 120 or, maybe, more.
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