Two athletes representing Armenia will take part in the 2012 Paralympic Games that will kick off in London later this week.
Greta Vartanian in weightlifting and Margarita Hovakimian in swimming will be among some 4,200 athletes from 166 nations who will converge on the British capital to compete in as many as 21 sports from August 29 to September 9.
Vartanian, 26, took part in the Paralympic Games in Beijing four years ago, while her 17-year-old teammate Hovakimian will be making her Paralympic debut in London.
According to the Games’ schedule, the competition days for Vartanian and Hovakimian will be September 1 and September 5, respectively.
Hovakimian, who swam 100 meters within 2 minutes and 17 seconds during the qualification for the Games, said she is training hard to be able to improve the result to 1 minute and 55 seconds at the competitions in London.
“I’m going [to London] with great enthusiasm. I am not afraid, even though this is the first time [in Paralympics] for me. I will do my best to ensure a result that will be good at least for me and my coach,” the young Paralympian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The chairman of the Paralympic Committee of Armenia, Hakob Abrahamian, described both Hovakimian and Vartanian as being well prepared for the competitions, but stopped short of promising medals. “I do have some expectations. I won’t say it will be medals, but we’ll do everything to ensure our best performance,” said Abrahamian.
Armenian athletes have not won any medals in summer and winter Paralympics before. The best results shown by Armenian Paralympians so far were fourth places won in weightlifting and alpine skiing competitions.
Abrahamian said additional funding could raise the profile of disabled sports in Armenia. “Participation in the Games is based on the results shown in rating competitions, but participating in these competitions involves large expenses for athletes. We don’t have enough funding to be able to send more athletes to the Paralympics,” said the sport official.
The government of Armenia has allocated only 5.8 million drams (about $14,000) worth of assistance to athletes participating in the forthcoming Paralympic Games.
“Armenian disabled athletes have a great potential and if the government funding increases, we will have greater participation in the Games,” said Abrahamian, adding that among disabled sports that have a potential for development in Armenia are basketball, sailing, swimming, weightlifting, table tennis and others.
No television channel in Armenia is going to broadcast the Paralympic events from London.
Meanwhile, the British hosts of the Games are expected to organize them at the level comparable to the Olympic Games that were held in London earlier this summer. The Paralympic competitions are due to take place at the same venues that hosted Olympic events.
“It’s going to be a spectacular event. There will be another flame in the stadium, the opening and closing ceremonies,” said Abrahamian.