Manhood in Armenia
Relevance of sports in Armenian society

Gagik Xacikyan, multiple youth champion of athletics, is waiting for his daily training in one of the oldest gyms named after the two times Olympic Champion, Albert Azaryan.

In 2018, I started to photograph sport trainings and competitions all around Armenia. I focused on the most traditional and popular post-soviet sports such as wrestling, weightlifting and gymnastics. My goal was to visualize the obsession of Armenian sportsmen.
Sports offer the chance to break out from poverty for the impoverished living on the periphery of society. Sport victories can truly represent the power of a nation’s identity especially for such a poor and isolated country like Armenia. Unfortunately, infrastructure and training methods have not changed since the Soviet era; yet children and coaches remain highly optimistic and continue fighting for success. The winner takes it all – personal and material success, social respect, and most of all, glory for the nation of Armenia.
This project follows the importance of sports in Armenian Youth culture, although also approaches themes like Manhood and the place of Man in Armenian society. Since the 2018 Armenian Velvet Revolution, youth in this country has taken a strong place in their society, creating great changes in the country’s structure. Armenian man must be strong, commited, respectful and persistent during the whole life path from child to man. Sport has become a major source of representing strong positions in such society.

Aristak and his friends watching the trainer who is showing the exercise to the mixed aged group in the local wrestling school in Armavir.

A boy checking leg muscles before his exercise in a local weightlifting championship in Gyumri.

Locals attend every regional championship to see unforgettable moments and cheer for their friends and family members. The most rewarding moment is when kids win medals in front of their trainers and beloved ones. 

Cadets playing around the mattress before the freestyle wrestling training in Garni, Armenia. This complex is located on the edge of the town and has been renovated recently by the Armenian Olympic Committee.

Competitions are crucial for cadets. It is their opportunity to be noticed by coaches of the National Team. They take it very seriously and fight for their last breath. 

The relationship between coach and athletes are very strict and similar to a father-son relationship. They meet each other every day, and the coach usually accompany children throughout their careers. To teach a very talented athlete and win medals with him/her gives the opportunity to step up to the next level of hierarchy.

A boxer after losing a match at the annually held National Box Championship in Dynamo Sport Club. 

Coaches usually work in small groups in order to pay closer attention to the youngsters. They usually spend all day in the gym. Ashot Gasparyan, senior coach at Albert Azaryan Gymnastic School is showing them how to do an exercise correctly.

A boy resting in between hard exercises. At Albert Azaryan Gym, children start training right after school that lasts usually until evening. At the end they are totally exhausted.

Next to the Nuclear Power Plant of the country, the Metsamor Sports Complex was supposed to be built as the center of sport in 1980. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government changed plans and built another Olympic complex in Tsaghkadzor. The complex has not been renovated since. However, trainings never stopped.

Children usually start training at an early age and are very enthusiastic while listening to their coach. They consider them as role models. The village Ararat is quite famous of its box club.

A boy having a break and preparing for the next lift up in a school gym in Yerevan.

In rural areas trainings are the only community programs after school. This one takes place in half-abandoned Metsamor Sports School, next to the Nuclear Plant of Armenia.

Almost in every town you can find the Olympic sign that proudly proclaims the success of Armenian sport culture.

Boys hanging on a bar as part of training exercises in a local wrestling school in Etchmiadzin.

He is Robert Gyulumyan, 12 years old multiple champions in gymnastics. Everyone calls him Maugl because he can do extraordinary jumps and exercises with his body. Maugli trains every day 5-6 hours in the Hrant Shahinyan Sport School in Yerevan. He is one of the biggest hopes in Armenian Gymnastics.

Weightlifters rolling a piece of truck tire at Spartak Sport School, one of the oldest facilities in the country. 

Preparing for box training in Spartak Sport School in Yerevan.

Gyumri, Armenia — A boy is warming up his leg muscles after his round on a regional weightlifting championship. 

You can find more information and pictures about the project in the following pdf: 
This project was supported by Hungarian Cultural Fund.
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