Legendary Athlete Yuri Vardanyan Passes Away

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Yuri Vardanyan, a legendary Armenian weightlifter who won a gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games, has died in the United States at the age of 62, Armenia’s Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs confirmed on Friday, November 2.

In a November 2 statement, Armenia’s acting Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Gabriel Ghazarian said Vardanyan died of a “long serious illness.”

Vardanyan, who also won a number of world, European and national titles and set 43 weightlifting records during his sporting career, was the world’s first weightlifter to achieve a 400-kilogram total in the 82.5-kg weight category.

After ending his weightlifting career, Vardanyan moved to the United States in 1992 and settled in Los Angeles.

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In 1994, he was inducted into the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

In 2009, Vardanyan returned to Armenia where he served as an advisor to the Armenian president until 2013. Vardanyan then briefly served as Armenia’s minister of sports and youth affairs before being appointed the country’s ambassador to Georgia in 2014. He left his ambassadorial position in 2017.

Despite his controversial diplomatic career, to this day Vardanyan is hailed as a hero in Armenia for his deeds in the sport of weightlifting. A stamp honoring Vardanyan was printed in Armenia in 2010.

“A man who made thousands of fans honor him with standing ovations, a man whom numerous young athletes wished to emulate and whose athletic achievements were a matter of pride for the Armenian people has died,” Armenia’s acting Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Ghazarian said in a message on the legendary weightlifter’s death.

“He [Vardanyan] is an athlete who will, for many years to come, serve as an example to weightlifters. His death is an irreparable loss for the Armenian sport,” the official added, expressing his condolences to the family and friends of Vardanyan. 16:40, 2 November, 2018
President Armen Sarkissian sent a letter of condolence to his family, as did Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

“Yuri Vardanyan was an example for many in the Armenian sport world. With his Olympic and world records he proved that what is impossible is just a challenge which can be overcome, that what is impossible can become possible,” Sarkissian wrote. “I extend my sincere condolences to Vardanyan’s family, relatives and share their grief and sadness.”

Former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has extended condolences to the family. “It was with great sorrow that I learnt about the passing of legendary athlete, USSR, Europe and World weightlifting champion, Olympic champion, public figure and statesman Yuri Vardanyan,” Sargsyan said.

“The sports heights achieved by Yuri Vardanyan have been a source of admiration and inspiration for all Armenians. Following his example, numerous Armenian young people made a decision to be dedicated to [professional] sports. I am happy that I had the chance to personally know Yuri and closely cooperate with him,” he said.

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