SI Vault
 
A SOVIET CHAMPION TELLS HIS OWN STORY
Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
August 06, 1962
Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, Soviet Master of Sport and current holder of the world broad jump record, was pleased to find himself the subject of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover on July 18. After the recent U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet at Stanford University, Igor returned to his room and wrote, in neat Russian script, his views on international competition, the nature of his personal life, what he has learned from American athletes and how he became a Soviet track star. Here for the first time in any U.S. magazine:
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 06, 1962

A Soviet Champion Tells His Own Story

Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, Soviet Master of Sport and current holder of the world broad jump record, was pleased to find himself the subject of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover on July 18. After the recent U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet at Stanford University, Igor returned to his room and wrote, in neat Russian script, his views on international competition, the nature of his personal life, what he has learned from American athletes and how he became a Soviet track star. Here for the first time in any U.S. magazine:

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

The two days at Stanford Stadium can never be forgotten. I have taken part twice in the Olympic Games and I believe that I am speaking for all sportsmen when I say that this Russian-American competition embodied in itself, with particular force and expression, the Olympic ideal of friendship and honest struggle. We found ourselves equally able to be ferocious on the running track and friendly in everyday life.

Up to the final parade, not all of us were happy in the same degree. That is quite obvious and understandable; there were the victors and the vanquished. But when we all, shoulder to shoulder, walked in the victory march on the track (at the close of the meet) we were all equal, for our friendship was still there.

As I write this, we have only one day left in Palo Alto. And let the reader forgive me for the dispassionate tone of my tale, for I have only one free evening for the writing, namely the one of July 22, 1962.

I was born May 19, 1938 in Kiev, in the Ukraine. I'll say immediately that I was born into a sporting family. More than that, my father, Aram Ter-Ovanesyan, was in the '30s one of the Soviet Union's record holders in the discus throw. In addition, at the second All-Soviet Union Spartakiad in 1928, he finished second in the standing broad jump.

If I say I grew up in a stadium, it is really true. When I look back on things now, I think that there wasn't a single sport I didn't try my hand at (except the golf). At the age of 3 I was skiing, at 7 I learned to swim, at 9 I was an enthusiast of gymnastics, and it seemed from morning to evening I stood on my head, something for which I often received chastisement on the other end.

At the age of 10 I took part in a big sports festival for the first time. At that time in our country there were huge physical culture parades. The idea was to popularize sports. All the Soviet Union republics took part in them.

We were then living in Erevan, and I competed for the Armenian Socialist Republic. In one part of the festival the best weight lifter in Armenia, Sergo Ambaratsunyan, came in carrying a barbell over his head, but instead of the regular weights on the end, there were two huge spheres. Inside the spheres were hidden small soccer players. I was one of them. The spheres opened suddenly and, before the surprised spectators, as in a fairy tale, we little soccer players appeared.

But I especially liked jumping. I thought that I jumped in an especially light and beautiful way. I recall how, in my childhood, some puddles would remain on the drying asphalt after a rain. I would run out into the streets, barefoot and with special joy." I would run everywhere jumping over these small spots of water, risking splattering the passersby. And I was very angry at the people because they wouldn't notice or understand how well I jumped. I thought that here, immediately, a coach would notice me, would come to me, would take me by the hand and say, "Let's go. If you like, I'll make a champion out of you."

But, for some reason, no one came to me, and for many years I jumped only over the puddles.

Time went by. My parents moved to Moscow. At school, in physical culture classes, Sergei Gavrilovitch Parfionovitch taught me order, and organized practice and physical exercise. Play slowly became a hobby, the hobby a passion. In 1955 I finished school. I was 17. In the depth of my soul, I began dreaming about the Olympic Games.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5