Sergo Hambardzumyan – A Legend 

18.10.2016 17:58 root

Sergo Hambardzumyan was born in the village of Bist of the Ordubad region (Nakhchivan) in 1910. Sergo – Armenia’s pride in Soviet weightlifting: 
- Three-time champion of the USSR (1933-1935) 
- World record holder 
- 30 times record breaker of the USSR 
- Honorary Master of Sports of the USSR (1961) 

Some facts
In 1947, athletes from all the unions paraded over the Red Square. On the podium of the Mausoleum stood members of the Soviet government headed by Joseph Stalin. Their attention was attracted by a man who carried two large balls on his shoulders, connected by a pole - this design was reminiscent of a giant barbell. The man stopped in the middle of the Square, the balls opened and out jumped 22 boys - two soccer teams. (By the way, among these boys were later to become famous athletes Igor Ter-Ovanesyan and Hamlet Soghomonyan.) Out of nowhere came out two goal-nets and a mini-match had begun, while the job of refereeing was taken up by the person who had brought out the 440 kg barbell, Sergo Hambardzumyan. By his late 30s, he was already being proclaimed a Legend. But as you know, legends are not born, rather legends are made – a prickly and difficult path. 

Sergo (real name - Sarkis; as rumors have it, the name ‘Sergo’ stuck to Hambardzumyan from the influence of Stalin) Iskander (paternal name) Hambardzumyan was born in the village of Bist of the Ordubad region (Nakhchivan) in 1910. At only the age of seven, his family, fled from Turkish massacres to the North Caucasus – Kislovodsk. The Hambardzumyans lived there for a decade. Ten tough and joyless years; almost all marital property had to be sold. Hambardzumyan's family was no longer able to stand on their feet and recover after the escape. As soon as Sergo was of age to get a job, he went to work for a cobbler and learn the basics of crafting, while trying to earn a living. 

In his time he worked and as a cobbler, and as a mason, and as a mechanic ... Hambardzumyan worked in mines near the town of Shakhty, and later as a repairman on the Baku-Julfa railway. However, the calls of ancestors and stones of his native mountains attracted Sergo home. 

Hambardzumyan returned to Armenia as a young man of unusual size and strength. In Yerevan rumors were spreading that he could uproot a tree or lift a car into the air ... What is there to do with this sort of strength? Sergei began to attend the "Dynamo" weightlifting gym of Yerevan. 

Hambardzumyan’s first coach was Grigory Simonyan. His outstanding ability and strength would soon shine, as in 1930 and 1931, Hambardzumyan became champion of Armenia, and in 1932 - the champion of the Caucasus and double record holder of the Soviet Union. In addition, Sergo established 5 national records. In 1933, when 55 athletes challenged the Soviet title in Minsk, no one even considered Hambardzumyan as a candidate for the title. But the 23-year-old Sergo clean and jerked102.5 kg and surpassed his closest opponent, not by a few grams, but by 27.5 kg. A year later Hambardzumyan repeated one and set three new world records. But that was only the beginning of the rise to Olympus. Sergo had become a fan favorite. He was in the newspapers, and people told stories, even anecdotes about him. 

Every summer Hambardzumyan would take his family out to the sea. On the beaches of Sochi, he constantly entertained people by joking, telling stories and anecdotes, singing songs. A few days following the visit of the Hambardzumyans in Sochi, the whole region would know of him. People from other beaches would specifically come to Hambardzumyan to play chess. In the breaks between games he would go for a demonstrative swim. All the children at the beach knew that if uncle Sergo went into the water, soon they will see a whale. Sergo would dive deep into the water, and as he floated away from the diving spot – he would pick up a mouthful of water, then roll over on his back and make a huge fountain, just like a whale.
Once, famous Gypsy singer Nikolai Slichenko came to the same beach where the Hambardzumyan family was vacationing. Sergo, who was fond of gypsy music, was very pleased with such company. Wrapped in a white sheet, with one of its ends lying on his shoulder, Sergo, towered all over the beach, and suddenly had begun to loudly sing: "I - The Gypsy Baron, I'm in love with a gypsy woman..." 
Everyone instantly turned to him and, without taking their eyes off of him, whispered to one another: "That’s Slichenko". At this very moment a short and tiny Slichenko walked up to Sergo. But no one paid any attention to him, everyone was preoccupied with Sergo’s singing. So absorbed into Sergo’s act, one little lad, unceremoniously tapped Slichenko on the shoulder, and asked him: "Do you know who that there is singing? It’s Nikolai Slichenko!". 

... In Moscow, at the Green Theater, the weightlifting championship of the Soviet Union was being held. Installing 5 Soviet records and collecting a total of 575 kg in pentathlon, Sergo became the absolute champion of the USSR. Earlier this record belonged to Jan Sparre. A name of a man that is often associated in the biography of Sergey Hambardzumyan. 
After German athlete Josef Manger was the winner in the heavyweight division the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich, and was proclaimed the most powerful man in the world, the political leadership of the USSR had set an objective to all Soviet athletes to surpass the result of Manger. It was a battle of two of the strongest powers, a battle of two autocratic rulers. According to Soviet ideology, the most powerful man in the world could not be a German - the record was only to be held by a Soviet citizen. And so, Hambardzumyan gave Stalin a promise to surpass the fascist athlete, Hitler’s favorite. Although, Sergo did not become Stalin’s favorite, despite fulfilling his promise. 

December 30th, 1938 only the luckiest from Yerevan managed to get into the Small Hall of the Arm-Philharmonic. Others stood in the street, blocking traffic on Abovyan street. Everyone was waiting for news from the audience. The Philharmonic walls trembled, and cries of "Hurrah" were heard. There it was - the moment of victory! People laughed and cried. As soon Sergo finished his speech, out of nowhere a table appeared in front of Sergo, which he got up on. The people grabbed Hambardzumyan together with the table and on this pedestal took him all the way to his hotel, where later a banquet was organized in his honor. A living statue - the personification of beauty and glory floated down the streets and all you could hear were enthusiastic chants: "he did it, he did it!" 
Newspapers wrote: "In the Small Hall of the Arm-Philharmonic, Sergo Hambardzumyan set a world record. He scored in classic triathlon a total of 433.5 kg. A sum that was 8.5 kg more than of the German weightlifter Manger’s achievement, making Sergo the most powerful man in the world.” This was the peak of Sergo Hambardzumyan’s glory! 

Interesting stories about Sergo Hambardzumyan 

David of Sassoun 
Sergey Hambardzumyan managed to play the role of David of Sassoun, in 1939, the 1000th anniversary of the Armenian epic. He was powerful and handsome in the battle scenes, triumphing over the King of Egypt on the Red Square in Moscow. And since foreign invaders were allowed to have more than on wife, Sergo-David freed all the women from captivity, explaining to them that the Armenians do not have harems and women of the East can do socially useful work – and so they did. 

Hambardzumyan was arranged to work as a mechanic at the garage of the Yerevan NKVD, in the 1930s. 
A truck had to be lifted without a jack, so that its tires were removed. And so many people tussled and hustled near the truck – but none were successful. As is customary in the genre of myths and legends, Sarkis entered the scene and raised the truck. And yes, exactly at that moment and completely by coincidence out came the men in charge of the NKVD office (People's Commissar Mugdusi). It was they who sent the mechanic to the “Dynamo” gym, providing him with a free pass at the cafeteria. 

Tigran’s Bodyguard 
In 1963, every Armenian in the world was fanatically anticipating the battle for the world title in chess between M.Botvinnik and T.Petrosyan, and Sergo Hambardzumyan went to Moscow as a voluntary bodyguard for Petrosyan. 
When Tigran Petrosyan got out of the car at the Variety Theatre, Hambardzumyan took care of him, indicating through which corridor Petrosyan should enter the hall. And there Hambardzumyan looked to keep everything in order, and tried his best to silence everyone. The only person who he wasn’t able to silence was – himself. 
According to Sergo’s wife, some military man sitting in the front loudly blurted to the person sitting next to him, "How could that little Armenian win against Botvinnik, look at him!" Sergo, enraged, picked up the military man by the collar and barked: "Come again?!" Somehow the military man was detached from the hands of the "bodyguard" and Sergo was taken out of the room. He explained what had happened and refused to apologize. The next day, in spite of the ban, he came and sat down in "his" place. 

Sergo Hambardzumyan was a legendary figure in weightlifting for the Armenian SSR and the Soviet Union as a whole. Honorary Master of Sports, S.Hambardzumyan updated the USSR records a total of 30 times, many of his achievements were world records as well, but only one of his records has entered the official list of World Records: the left arm jerk of 96 kilograms. By the way, this feat from Sergo that he performed in 1946, in Paris, is yet to be surpassed .

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