By Artsvi Bakhchinyan
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN/PARIS — French-Armenian Benjamin Gabriel Jean Varonian, 40, is a former Olympic gymnast and circus acrobat. He won two gold medals in the parallel bars and team all-around at the 1998 European Junior Gymnastics Championships and competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and won an Olympic silver medal in the horizontal bar. Varonian and another French athlete, Eric Poujade became the first ever French gymnasts to win Olympic medals in gymnastics in a non-boycotted Olympics. After this success Benjamin left sport for awhile, but decided to return to gymnastics becoming an acrobat. Thus he trained for working in circus taking special acting and music lessons, dance classes… and now he works as a circus acrobat in China.
Benjamin, the first time I learned about you was on Russian TV, during the broadcasting of the 2000 Summer Olympics from Sydney. The Russian commentator mentioned that you are from France but of Armenian origin. Where do your Armenian ancestors come from?
I am from France with some Armenian origin. My grandfather came to France during the World War II and married my grandmother who kept the name. Unfortunately I never met him and so we never had Armenian traditions in the family. I have been contacted by some other parts of his family, his brother who lived in Marseille. I looked into it and found we are from Yerevan. Many people ask me about my origin so it helps me to discover the Armenian people, the culture and the traditions. And I am so proud of my name now. I travel a lot and quite often when people ask me where I am from I answer I am Armenian from France.
Are you from a sporting family?