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The Varadians’ Olympic ‘Spirit’ Lives On!

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From AYF Olympics 2012 Special Issue

The Aug. 5, 2012 passing of Melkon “Mal” Varadian was a milestone in this AYF Olympic-oriented family from Providence. With sister Maro Varadian Kachadoorian, now the only remaining member of the senior generation of family athletes, it is fitting to recollect some of the family’s special moments of Olympics past.

Starting in 1939 with Providence’s Varad Varadian and his (soon to be) brother-in-law Jack Kachadoorian from Worcester competing neck and neck in the dashes, the procession of Varadian family Olympic participants began—and continues to this day, unbroken for some seven decades. Mal Varadian dominated the dashes in 1942 just before World War II reduced the Olympics in size and stature. During those times, two more members of the family, Haig and Maro, began their tenures in the Olympics Games. Maro became the first female high scorer from Providence in the 1943 Olympics in Franklin, Mass., and Haig went on to eventually help form the Olympic Governing Body.

In 1945-47, the Olympics began to flourish once again as the soldiers returned from the war. Varad, Mal, and Haig had been in the war together in Europe and were thankfully reunited back in the states in 1946. During the years that followed, there were fierce daily practices with Mal and Haig in constant competition with each other. Elder brother Varad took on the role of team captain, mandating that no one would miss the practice sessions. The three brothers, Haig, Varad, and Mal, competed against each other for the first time in 1946 in New Britain, Conn. Mal explained that he always lifted his arms, not in victory but to keep the finish line from cutting his neck because of his height!

It was in 1947 that John “Jay” Varadian, the youngest of the four brothers, began his 14-year career as an Olympian, this time competing with brothers Mal and Haig in the dashes and jumps. Also at that time, Anahid Karentz, who later became Anahid Varadian (Haig’s wife), grew to prominence in the women’s jumping events, becoming the female high scorer from Providence in the 1946, 1947, and 1948 Olympics. Haig and Jay successfully competed for a number of years after older brothers Varad and Mal retired. They were part of that well-known Providence team who, along with new brother-in-law Varoujan Karentz and seven other talented AYFers, traveled to the Detroit Olympics in 1950 and together brought home the trophy. During those years, the Providence Chapter won the Olympics 9 times in 11 years. Each of the four brothers, as well as brother-in-law Jack and sister-in-law Anahid, would later become an AYF Olympic King/Queen.

Jay’s years overlapped with the second generation of Varadian Olympians. Niece Debbie and nephews Harry and Levon (Kachadoorian), along with cousins Michael, Paul, Richard, and John, all competed in the AYF Junior Olympics in the early 1960’s. Joining them shortly after were cousins Sandra, Diana, Charlie, Malcolm, Stephen, Christine, Sylvia, and Sarkis. The elder Varadians constantly had the gang of cousins racing against each other at picnics and family outings. This led to a number of AYF Olympic records and scoring titles from the family. For over 15 years, nearly the entire Varadian clan participated and traveled to almost every AYF Olympics, including chartering a plane for the East Coast AYF Chapters to attend the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1972.

The next era began in 1981 as Michael’s son Nick ran in his first Junior Olympics while Michael himself competed in his final Senior Olympics.

That started a third generation of Varadian family members in the AYF Olympics, with some still competing, including Beth, Siran, Armen, Sarah, Sonig, Nevart, Richie, Simone; Anto, Melkon, and Ani (Megerdichian); Sylvahna and Sarky (Menissian); Nishon, Ari, Taline, and Alyssa (Kachadoorian); and Melanie and Ani (Kachadoorian/Salerno). The family could easily fill the track by themselves in an Alumni Mile!

The fourth generation of Varadians is now already making its mark with Mal’s great grandchildren Emily, Nicholas, and Carl currently competing in the Varadian family’s 73rd consecutive year of AYF Olympic participation! This was clearly the vision that the elder Varadians had for the AYF and Olympics—that is, subsequent generations participating, enjoying and maintaining the organization and its wonderful traditions.

The Varadian family is very grateful for the AYF and the Olympic Games, which still keeps Armenian families, and the organization, whole and involved in many communities. The AYF has created the Annual Varadian AYF Spirit Award, given to the individual(s) who best exemplify the fraternal “spirit” of the AYF. This award is a fitting extension of the entire family’s love for the AYF and for the people who, to quote one of Mal’s most famous statements, continue to “Make it Better than it Was.”

 

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