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Armenian Bobsled Team – Winter Olympic Sensation

Tamara Karakashian

Crossing the finish line of a bobsled track is like stepping off a high-speed roller coaster. For Dan Janjigian, an American-Armenian who competed for Team Armenia in the 2002 Olympic Games, this was the ultimate adrenalin rush. More than that, Janjigian pursued a dream. He experienced first hand how making his grandmother proud truly really felt.

Dan Janjigian (left) and team-mate Jorgo Alexandrou.
Dan Janjigian (left) and team-mate Jorgo Alexandrou.

Janjigian, along with fellow bobsledder and long time best friend, Yorgo Alexandrou, did not finish first in the bobsledding competition, however the feelings of achievement are definitely in their hearts. The hundreds of red, blue and orange flags waving in the stands welcomed them as they cheered and jumped for joy, as if they had won the gold.

The American public has learned about Armenians through political battles to win recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This time the bobsled team has succeeded in exposing Armenians in a different sense. Armenian people are kind, cultured, and generous. The bobsled team exemplified these traits. With humbleness they darted through the finish line, finishing 33rd.

Both Janjigian and Alexandrou have been practicing bobsledding in their hometown of San Jose, CA. Their practices were comprised of pushing their bobsled on their hometown street, while being sure the neighbors were wide awake and ready to go for the day. Their bobsled has been fitted with in-line skates so that they could practice on the streets of San Jose–where the leaves in the road are their only obstacles. The determination and dedication to the sport has led them to the place they are today.

Although Janjigian and Alexandrou are not citizens of Armenia, prior to the Olympic games they were both granted residency so that they would be allowed to compete. Janjigian commented, “There is not a drop of blood in me that is not Armenian.” Being of Armenian ancestry has proven to be as meaningful for Armenians as living in the sacred homeland of Armenia.

L to R: Dan Abramson, Dan Janjigian, Jorgo Alexandrou,Tamara Karakashian and Barlow Der Mugrdechian at the David of Sassoun statue in downtown Fresno.
L to R: Dan Abramson, Dan Janjigian, Jorgo Alexandrou,Tamara Karakashian and Barlow Der Mugrdechian at the David of Sassoun statue in downtown Fresno.

The support and continuous prayers of the Armenian-American community has been wonderful and continues to encourage the two in their endeavors. The lack of financial sponsors, however, has proven to be a hindrance more than anything else. With only one company, Knowledge Anywhere, a web-based e-learning company, backing them, they find themselves still in a hole. “Bobsledding is an expensive sport,” commented Janjigian, “If only we could have the same degree of financial support as we do spiritual support it would be much easier.”

Janjigian and Alexandrou were in Fresno before the Olympics where they made the announcement that their bobsled would be painted by the beautiful Armenian artistry of Siroun Yeretsian. The bobsled is currently for sale on ebay.com.

In the future, Janjigian plans to keep the bobsledding program functioning by getting kids more involved with the sport. They would like to expand the program with the continued help of the Armenian-American community: by prayers and dollars.

Janjigian feels that the sport of bobsledding will never allow him to break even with the amount of money he has invested into the program. He does however feel the benefits when he is able to meet with fans and encourage them to live out their dreams. He enjoys being able to share his experiences with Armenian children at schools and various different events, and continues to encourage them to pursue their dreams. Janjigian cherishes the joy his grandmother expressed as the team crossed the finish line. To Janjigian and Alexandrou, this is the gold.