World’s Biggest Stage for Novato Skier


By Bruce Meadows

VANCOUVER, BC (Novato Advance) — Ani Serebrakian, a 20-year-old from Novato, Calif. marched in the Opening Ceremonies Friday night at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

But if you tried watching them on ABC, you may have had to look quickly … Serebrakian, an athletic standout at Marin Catholic and now attending the University of San Francisco (USF), is not part of the 216-member US team, but is in the four-person ski team from Armenia.

Serebrakian, who earned a reputation for excellence among the top American juniors, could have tried to make the US team, but opted to ski for Armenia. Her parents, Armen and Anita Serebrakian, are Armenian and were born in neighboring Iran.

“I feel honored to be on the Armenian team,” said Serebrakian, who will compete in the women’s slalom and giant slalom events February 24 and 26. “I’ve been to Armenia and it really hits home to ski for that country.”

Serebrakian, majoring in exercise and sports science at USF, started skiing at age 2, racing when she was 5. Calling herself and her 22-year-old brother, Arman, “weekend skiers,” she spends most winter weekends at Squaw Valley.
She has competed in numerous national and international ski events, including one a few years ago at the Whistler Cup, where Olympic Alpine skiing will be contested. She has been ranked as high as ninth in Junior World Cup.

Ani Serebrakian excelled as a tennis player, earning All-MCAL honors her junior and senior years at Marin Catholic and was named Marin Grand Prix Player of the Year.

She could have tried to qualify for the American team, although it would have been more difficult. Ani explained, “there’s a point system and not all US team members qualify for the Olympics … I really don’t know if I could have qualified for the American team.”
While she had expressed an interest in skiing for Armenia, it was her brother and father who initially contacted the Armenian Ski Federation and found out what was needed for Ani to qualify.

“It’s kind of complicated, but they have a point system based on competition,” she explained, adding that besides herself, there is one other male Alpine skier and a male and female cross-country skier.

She left for Canada last Friday, with a knowledge of Whistler, where competition will be held, but not much else.

“I know we will be close to the start (of Opening Ceremonies, behind Albania, Algeria, Andorra and Argentina) and we will be one of the smallest groups,” said Serebrakian before leaving for the Olympics. “I don’t know what the uniforms look like or who will be carrying our flag.”

She does know she will be going up against the best skiers in the world, something she enjoys.

“I’m not going with the mentality that I will place or not place,” she said. “I just want to perform my best.”

Ani said “it hasn’t hit me yet,” as far as competing in the Winter Games, “but I am really looking forward to the experience.”

She was traveled north with her parents and brother for the Opening Ceremonies, and her mother was planning on staying with her while her father and brother were expected to return to California then return for the slalom competition.

The first and second rounds of the Women’s Giant Slalom are February 24, while the Women’s Slalom will be contested February 26.

“It’s a long wait,” she said. “But that’s OK because I plan on skiing every day.”

She’s proud to be competing for Armenia in the Winter Games, explaining, “I traveled to Armenia a few years ago, in the summer, and I fell in love with the culture and the history … I decided I wanted to represent the country.”

She’s competed in several competitions this winter, including Utah, Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe, but knows this will be much different.

“I am racing against the best in the world,” she said, adding that “I will place where I place … I’m not worried about that part of it.”

Ani said she might be encouraged to try and qualify for the 2014 Armenian team, as is her brother, who competes for University of Colorado and will be racing in the NCAA Championships at Steamboat Springs, Colo., in March. The 2014 Winter Games are in Russia.
When she graduates, she is uncertain what she wants to do, although she has expressed an interest in her father’s work . . . Armen is a head and neck reconstructive surgeon.

“This (the Winter Games) might bring me some experience that could lead me into something related to skiing,” she said.

But for now, her mind is focused on practicing, Friday’s Opening Ceremony and the competition later this month.

“I think it (Opening Ceremonies) will be emotional,” she said. “Just marching in, hearing the country’s name announced . . . I can hardly wait.”