Houry Gebeshian Seeks to Put Armenia on the RIO Gymnastics Map

Houry Gebeshian Seeks to Put Armenia on the RIO Gymnastics Map

The Wall Street Journal


The gold medal for Armenian diaspora pride looks set to go to Houry Gebeshian. The 27-year-old physician’s assistant from Cleveland and granddaughter of Armenian refugees, Gebeshian had the meet of her life in what she planned to be her final competition.

She is likely to have a skill named after her on the uneven bars—a mount that includes a 360 degree turn to get from the low bar to the high bar—and earning the support of the crowd early on Sunday, finishing her routine by kissing the uneven bars.

The crowd also booed scores they considered to be too low for her on her subsequent performances, and she, in turn, went on to kiss the other pieces of equipment.

“I just wanted to thank the sport,” she said. “There’s Armenians everywhere… It is amazing to meet all these people” online, who supported a GoFundMe account she set up to help pay her way to the Games.

Gebeshian is the first female gymnast to represent Armenia at an Olympic Games and signed an Armenian flag soon after competing. “My goal was to bring Armenia on the map” of gymnastics, she said.

She competed Sunday in qualifying rounds in a white leotard adorned with Mount Ararat in crystals. (It’s an Armenian national symbol, located within Turkish borders, and its ownership is disputed.) She also said that her grandparents had fled genocide, and that as a result, her parents had been born in Lebanon.

Gebeshian acknowledged the existence of political tensions between Armenia and others in the Games—chiefly Azerbaijan and Turkey—saying simply that “things are a little bit rough.” But she also said there hadn’t been an issue for her or other athletes.

While here she’s taken a picture with Russian team-member Seda Tutkhalyan, who is also of Armenian descent, though their conversation was hampered by the fact that while Gebeshian speaks Armenian, she said Tutkhalyan does not speak as much.

Gebeshian is also trying to grab signatures from as many other athletes as possible to adorn her sneakers.

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