By Alin K. Gregorian
MONTREAL — Four athletes are hoping to bring gold to Armenia at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
They participated a major qualifier competition in Boston in March.
Montreal-born ice dancer Tina Garabedian, 18 is partnered with Simon Proulx-Senecal, and she is giving it her all.
The other Olympic hopefuls for Armenia are Slavik Hayrapetyan, 20, of Armenia and Anastasia Galustyan, 16, of Russia.
Most recently the four competed in the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, March 28-April 3.
Maral Garabedian, Tina’s mother, said, “We are very proud. She was born in Canada but can’t forget her origins. We chose to represent Armenia and raise our flag,” she said.
Previous to this competition, Tina Garabedian had won the bronze in the 2015 Golden Spin of Zagreb and reached the free dance at the 2016 European Championships.
The couple came in 27th and thus qualified to go to the world championships in March 2017 in Helsinki, Finland.
Garabedian’s accomplishment is all the more special because this is her first season with her new partner, Proulx-Senecal, 24.
She started figure skating at age 5 and has competed since age 6. Three years ago she switched to ice dancing.
She goes to a specialized sports-centered high school in Montreal, College Cégep Gérald-Godin in the sports-study program, after finishing seventh grade at École Arménienne Sourp Hagop. The school allows her to miss days if she is competing.
In a recent interview, Garabedian said that she skates at least three hours a day, fewer hours than her counterparts who do not go to school. She noted that she intends to go to college and that her partner is already in the university.
Garabedian, who previously had another partner, expressed her pleasure with Proulx-Senecal.
“We have the same goals,” she said. “We want to go to the Olympics and we love what we do,” she said.
Proulx-Senecal trained with the same coaches as Garabedian and after he and his ice dance partner had split, the coaches suggested the two try skating together and see how they got along.
As it turned out, the coaches were right. “We get along really well,” she said.
Garabedian said she was especially thrilled in Zagreb, Croatia, during the Golden Spin Championship, where the couple won the bronze. “They raised the Armenian flag and they had never used it. They took it out of the box that day,” she said.
Proulx-Senecal, an honorary Armenian by this point, said he was “feeling grateful” to represent Armenia and learning about Armenian history and its many adversities.
He also said he was delighted with his new partner.
“We are both hard workers, and we work very well together. Very natural,” he said.
The University of Montreal students said he is hopeful they will make it to South Korea.
Garabedian said she was very pleased to compete in the Boston championships.
“It was my biggest competition to date. It was cool to be around all the truly top skaters,” she said. “I also saw a lot of friends out there. It was really a different experience and I loved every second of it.”
Garabedian said she is much happier doing ice dancing rather than figure skating, because of its beauty.
Maral Garabedian said her daughter and her partner are going to Armenia on May 27 for a competition there at a new ice skating rink that is being opened. In addition, they will perform for audience, which are expected to include the country’s president.
Asked if nerves before a competition ever beset her, she said it was “impossible not to be” affected, though she added, “You have to calm yourself down. Just relax and enjoy it.”
Slavik Hayrapetyan, a solo skater, hails from Yerevan. He is finishing college and heading to college.
He has been skating since he was 10. He also has qualified to go to the worlds in Zagreb. He is a two-time Armenian national champion, he has won four senior international medals and qualified for the free skate at two ISU Championships
Anastasia Galustyan placed 11th in Colorado Springs, Colorado and 9th in Logroño, Spain. She then appeared at a pair of Challenger Series events, placing fourth at the 2015 Mordovian Ornament and taking bronze at the 2015 Warsaw Cup. In January 2016, she finished 15th at the European Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, having placed 16th in the short program and 13th in the free skate.
In February, Galustyan represented Armenia at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, placing 7th in the short, 11th in the free, and 10th overall. In March, she finished 16th at the 2016 World Junior Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, after ranking 9th in the short and 16th in the free. In April, she placed 20th in the short, 24th in the free, and 24th overall at the 2016 World Championships in Boston.
To follow the team, visit https://www.facebook.com/IceDanceArmenia/?fref=photo or Icedancearmenia.com