RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Armenian Weekly)—Armenian-American gymnast Houry Gebeshian, 26, will be the first female gymnast to represent the Republic of Armenia at the Olympics, after placing 21st out of 36 competitors and qualifying at the Pre-Olympic Test Event in Rio on April 17.
“I can’t train as much as, say, a 16-year-old can. I have been doing this sport for about 20 years, so my body is a little more broken down. But I actually feel the best I’ve ever felt; I’m doing the best gymnastics I’ve ever done. That comes with adjusting my schedule and training to accommodate to being a competing 26-year-old,” Gebeshian told The Armenian Weekly in March.
Gebeshian has been fully funding herself on what she calls her “great journey” to the Olympics. In an interview with the Weekly, Gebeshian explained that though Armenia has given her a spot to compete, she has been responsible for everything else. “Covering my expenses, travel, participation fees, leotards. Everything is pretty much on me,” she said.
In February, Gebeshian started a GoFundMe fundraising campaign, to raise money for her Olympic journey and to develop a program for women’s gymnastics in Armenia.
Born in Auburndale, Mass., to parents Hagop Gebeshian and Christine Abrahamian, Gebeshian—who currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio—began her journey in gymnastics when she was barely five. In 2012, she attempted to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games for team Armenia, but did not qualify.
Gebeshian sporting the leotard she wore at the podium training on April 15. The leotard by Ozone Leotards sports an Armenian tricolor and forget-me-not in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
Gymnastics has a long history in Armenia. Soviet-Armenian gymnast Albert Azaryan is considered the most decorated Armenian Olympian, winning three gold and one silver for the Soviet gymnastics team. Since Armenia’s independence in 1991, though, no athlete representing Armenia has won an Olympic medal in the sport. Gebeshian now has the chance to make history by competing as the first Armenian female gymnast in the Olympic Games.
After the Olympics, Gebeshian hopes that her involvement in Armenian gymnastics will help her become more engaged with the Armenian-American community. “I love the Armenian community here in Cleveland. Once I am finally done with gymnastics, I hope that with a little more time, I will be able to be more involved with the community and do more through our church here,” she said in March.
To learn more about Gebeshian’s journey to the Olympics and her fundraising campaign, visit her Facebook page.