Armenia won one silver and two bronze medals at the Olympic Games in London, finishing 60th in the overall medal standings alongside Belgium and Finland.
The rather modest performance was an improvement over the country’s place in the medal count of the previous Olympics held in Beijing four years ago. The Armenian Olympic team ranked 80th at the time, winning only three bronze medals.
A silver medal won by Greco-Roman wrestler Arsen Julfalakian is what made the difference this time around. Julfalakian, whose father and coach Levon became an Olympic champion in 1988, was narrowly defeated by a Russian rival in the final bout of his weight class.
Earning Armenia the two other medals were another wrestler, the 20-year-old Artur Aleksanian, and female weightlifter Hripsime Khurshudian.
Despite the higher place in the 2012 standings, the performance of the 25 athletes that represented Armenia at London is widely regarded as disappointing by Armenian sport fans. Despite Khurshudian’s bronze medal, the national team has caused greatest disappointment.
Tigran Martirosian, a world champion and Armenia’s arguably biggest hope for Olympic gold, suffered an injury just days before the start of the games. All other weightlifters except Khurshudian fared very poorly, triggering a storm of criticism at home.
Some of that criticism has been directed at Gagik Tsarukian, the businessman-turned-politician heading the Armenian National Olympic Committee. Yuri Vartanian, an Armenian weightlifting legend who had successfully competed for the Soviet Union, has openly held Tsarukian responsible for what he described as inadequate preparation of the weightlifters.
Yuri Aleksanian, a spokesman for the National Olympic Committee, dismissed the criticism on Monday, saying that it is for the most part politically motivated and aimed at discrediting Tsarukian. “This seems to go beyond sport and into politics,” Aleksanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Gagik Tsarukian is a businessman and philanthropist who has always promoted sports and we must thank him for doing that,” he said. “As for concrete sports, it’s national federations that are responsible for their results.”