Olympic Ski Journey an Uphill Quest for Arman Serebrakian
BY TOM VARTABEDIAN
NOVATO, Calif.—Like the Catskills, the road to Sochi is very high and bumpy for Olympic ski aspirant Arman Serebrakian.
But the journey continues, over mountains and valleys, in his quest to represent Armenia this winter.
It’s not about winning the gold medal or any other accolade, though that would be nice. It’s the story of a man who would withstand an avalanche just to stand up and be counted among the best alpine skiers in the world with the Tricolor in his hand.
In so doing, he would bring homage to his beloved country of Armenia. The talent he has. The funds to make it possible are yet another story. But, he’s making inroads.
As a member of the Armenian National Ski Team, Serebrakian just returned from seven weeks in New Zealand and Australia for quality training. In the process, he completed seven races and saw his world rating jump from 2,568 to currently 753rd, putting him right on track for a berth before the Jan. 20 deadline.
In order to qualify, he needs to be at 500 for a guaranteed spot.
“We trained alongside many national teams,” he described. “I’m now skiing slalom better and more confident than ever.”
Serebrakian took a year’s Sabbatical from his medical studies where he’s between his second and third year at Temple University. He still cracks the books, however, just to maintain his edge in becoming a surgeon.
You’ll find him inside a gym twice a day, increasing his leg strength and gaining the needed weight. It has not been an easy grind for the 27-year-old who was first introduced to the slopes at age 2.
One sacrifice has been the absence of any social life he used to enjoy.
“It’s all necessary in reaching my potential,” says the dual citizen. “Overall, I’m happy with my skiing and my progression is right on track. My goal is to put Armenian skiing on the map.”
Serebrakian and sidekick Arsen Nersisyan are strong candidates for Armenia. Arman’s sister Ani—another talent—will forego any intentions and help her brother instead with fund-raising.
Over the past eight years, Serebrakian has been the top-ranked Armenian alpine ski racer in the world. He’s had four top 10 NCAA finishes while competing for the University of Colorado where he made the All-Academic Ski Team, served twice as captain and one year as an assistant coach.
The sport tends to be quite costly with elite level equipment, coaching, on-snow training, lift tickets, travel, lodging, ski tuning supplies and competition fees. It all adds up.
“I’m closer to reaching my $90,000 goal needed to compete but it’s been a long road,” he says, pointing to a European trip to the Alps this October. “My training and competition schedule will continue to take me across the globe where the best snow conditions exist. Now I face the challenge of raising my own funds while still paying my way through medical school with student loans.”
The intensified on-snow training in the Alps will cover some of the rugged glaciers as a final tune-up before the winter’s competitive season.
Loans, fund-raisers and just about any option necessary will help fuel his budget, including a bar night in San Francisco, a silent auction and dance in Los Angeles.
The hype has already included “Go Arman” T-shirts and “Armenia Ski Team” scarves. Arman has been on the radar screen since his collegiate skiing days at the University of San Francisco.
Given the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s participation in the World Olympics as an independent country, the exposure has added incentive for Serebrakian and his teammates. He will stop at nothing to realize his dream.
Ask him who his role models are and he’ll quickly tell you Joe Almasian and Kenny Topalian who competed for Armenia in the bobsled during that inaugural year of 1994 in Lillehammer.
“I’m so focused on reaching this goal — so hungry — that I look at it as something necessary to reach my potential,” he professes. “Ski racing has long been a part of my life and I intend to bring it to the homes of Armenians everywhere.”