Winter Paralympics 2014: Only one athlete to represent Armenia in Sochi

Winter Paralympics 2014: Only one athlete to represent Armenia in Sochi

A four-member Armenian delegation including only one athlete has already left for Sochi to take part in the Winter Paralympic Games that will open in the southern Russian city on March 7.

The first official Paralympic Games were held in 1960, while the first Winter Paralympics took place in 1976. Armenia has participated in the Games since 1998. At the Games in Sochi on March 7-16 Armenia’s representative is 33 -year-old alpine skier Mher Avanesyan, who is participating on a ‘white card’, which is issued to countries that had no participants in rating competitions.

About 6.5 million drams (some $16,000) have been allocated from the state budget to ensure Armenia’s participation in the Sochi Paralympic Games.

Avanesyan, who had both his arms amputated, is from Nagorno-Karabakh. He acquired his disability at age 6, when he got accidentally electrocuted while playing. At age 12 he began to go in for alpine skiing. He has participated in Winter Paralympics since 1998. His best result so far has been seventh place. But Avanesyan is a multi-profile athlete as he also participated in the 2000 Summer Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in sailing.

Secretary General of the National Paralympic Committee of Armenia Ruzanna Sargsyan believes that Paralympic games play an important role for people with disabilities.

“With his participation Mher can serve as an example so that other people with disabilities also see that they can and should become fully integrated members of society. Mher does not have arms, but he can ski, but many people without disabilities can’t. Or when a lifter without two legs lifts a weight of 100 kilograms, twice as much as his own body weight…,” Sargsyan told ArmeniaNow.

She regrets that such events get little publicity as they could encourage other people with special needs as well as remind once again employers and decision-making bodies about the rights of disabled people.

The upcoming Paralympic Games in Sochi will not be an exception in Armenia as no local television company will broadcast events from there.

“We have received a letter from the organizing committee saying that they had applied to the Public Television of Armenia for the show, but they had received no response,” said the official.

The Public Television of Armenia confirmed to ArmeniaNow that they had not purchased the rights to broadcast the Winter Paralympics.

Besides, athletes participating in Paralympics have almost no proper conditions for training in Armenia.

Bridge of Hope NGO Advocacy Officer Zaruhi Batoyan told ArmeniaNow that Paralympics is all about professional sport, so a professional approach should be shown and professional opportunities should be provided to people so that they get engaged.

“Athletes [with disabilities] today do not have many opportunities to practice. They get such opportunities only before competitions proper, while they need to have them all year round. There is even a problem with access to gyms, while these games can be a very good incentive for our country where there are no such facilities and conditions for disabled people,” said Batoyan.