Olympic Champion Yurik Vardanian Passes Away At Age 62

In sad news coming out of California, Armenian news sources and the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) are reporting that Olympic weightlifting champion Yurik Vardanian has passed away; he was 62 years old.

Vardanian, an ethnic Armenian athlete who competed for the Soviet Union (USSR) National Team, was an athlete considered by many to be one of the greatest weightlifters of all time. Between 1977 and 1985, he won gold at seven World Weightlifting Championships and also took home gold at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. He also won silver at the 1982 World Championships and the eight medals he won rank him second of all time behind Vasily Alekseyev, himself a legend in the sport of weightlifting. He also won five European Championships and was the first athlete in the -82.5kg category to total 400kg, which he accomplished at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

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#mondaymotivation from the 1985 World Championships. This was my father's 3rd attempt snatch at 177.5kg(390lbs). You can clearly see how his bottom position is slightly off. He was having knee pain and fluid was building up in his knee. Between some of his attempts, Doctors had to draw some of the fluid around his knee in order for him to be able to squat. What is even more impressive about this story is what happened in the clean & jerk. After making 215kg(473lbs) on his second attempt, he was crowned World Champion (secured 3 gold medals). He decided to move up to 220kg(484lbs) on his third attempt. It wasn't a world record, he didn't need it for gold, it was purely my father being a champion. He took 220kg and made it on his 3rd and final lift. Afterwards when asked why he took 220kg on his third attempt he replied "I didn't want to win on just bodyweight, I had to show people I had more in me." This is the heart of a champion. Hopefully this will help you get through your tough Monday.

A post shared by Norik Vardanian (@norikvardanian) on

He was a favorite to repeat as Olympic Champion in 1984, however due to the Soviet Union’s boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games, Vardanian competed at the Friendship games where he easily won with a 405kg total. As of today, 405kg stands as the highest total ever accomplished in the -82.5kg division.

Vardanian finished his career setting 41 World Records and was decorated with the Order of Lenin in 1985 by the government of the Soviet Union. The Order of Lenin was the USSR’s highest decoration presented to civilians for outstanding services to the country.

In the early 1990s, Vardanian and his family immigrated to Moorpark, California. He was a pillar of the Armenian-American community in Southern California, working in the private business sector and helping other immigrants from Armenia with the transition to American life. In 2009 he returned to Armenia where he worked directly with former President Serzh Sargsyan to better the country. First as an advisor, then as the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs in the president’s inner cabinet. In 2014, he became the ambassador to the country of Georgia, working to improve relations with the two former USSR countries.

Vardanian is survived by his wife Eleonara; as well as sons David, Norik and Michael. Norik followed in his father’s footsteps and represented Armenia at the 2012 Olympic Games in the -94kg category. Deepest condolences go out to the Vardanian family and the weightlifting world as a whole.

Mike Graber

Mike Graber

Mike Graber is a 2011 US National Champion and multiple time national medalist in Olympic Weightlifting. When he's not attending a sporting event he usually can be found making spreadsheets in Corporate America. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mlgraber56k.

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