Albert Azaryan

  • Armenia

Though he is a native of Azerbaijan, Albert Azaryan is revered in his adopted Armenia. After winning Olympic gold medals in rings in 1956 and 1960, as a member of the USSR team, he was the flag bearer for Armenia at the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008

Though he is a native of Azerbaijan, Albert Azaryan is revered in his adopted Armenia. After winning Olympic gold medals in rings in 1956 and 1960, as a member of the USSR team, he was the flag bearer for Armenia at the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008. Azaryan’s childhood circumstances indirectly led to his success as one of the greatest ring men ever.

When he lowered to his iron cross, he turned his head to face one of the judges and asked, “Is this long enough?” — all while holding a steady cross. He realized two more judges were sitting behind the rings, so he pressed up a bit, turned his body sideways, and lowered back down and repeated the question.

Born February 11, 1929, in Ganja, Azerbaijan, he lost his father as a teenager. This forced him to leave home and find work, and as a blacksmith, he developed amazing strength. When he saw a group of Armenian gymnasts perform an exhibition in Azerbaijan, Azaryan tried some of the skills himself. He was later invited to train in Yerevan, Armenia, and his gymnastics career took off.

Ironically, politics led inevitably to one of Azaryan’s two original skills. At the 1953 USSR Championships, the Armenian’s sensed that they were being underscored. When the Armenian coach asked the judges, who were Russian, about his team’s low score on rings, he was told that his gymnasts were not holding their crosses for a full 3 seconds. Last up for his team on rings, an angry Azaryan had seen enough.

When he lowered to his iron cross, he turned his head to face one of the judges and asked, “Is this long enough?” — all while holding a steady cross. He realized two more judges were sitting behind the rings, so he pressed up a bit, turned his body sideways, and lowered back down and repeated the question. The judges eventually gave him a low score. A gymnast is not permitted to speak during a routine, they said, and Armenia dropped from third to fifth as a team. 

But Azaryan had definitely made his point. And his original skill became known as “The Azaryan” or the Olympic Cross.  At the 1954 World Championships in Rome, Azaryan introduced his second eponymous skill, the back roll from hang to iron cross.

After retiring from competition, Azaryan became head of the Yerevan School of Gymnastics. He continues to serve the sport as the leader of the Armenian Gymnastics Federation. He and his wife had two daughters and a son, Eduard, who was on the 1980 gold medal winning USSR Olympic team, where he performed The Azaryan Cross in honor of his legendary father.

Albert Azaryan won four Olympic medals, including back to back Olympic ring titles in 1956 and 1960, and five World Championship medals, four of them gold. But he will forever be appreciated for his 
trademark Azaryan Cross.

1956 Olympics – MELBOURNE, Australia

  • Rings – Gold
  • Team – Gold

1960 Olympics – ROME, Italy

  • Rings – Gold
  • Team – Silver

1954 World Championships – ROUE, Italy

  • Rings – Gold
  • Team – Gold

1958 World Championships – Moscow, USSR

  • Rings – Gold
  • Team – Gold

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