Yurik VardanyanTuesday, March 14, 2023
Yuri Norayrovich Vardanyan (13 June 1956 – 1 November 2018) was a Soviet Armenian weightlifter.
Vardanyan won a gold medal at the 1980 Summer Olympics, becoming the world's first weightlifter to achieve a 400 kilogram total in the 82.5 kg weight category. During his career he set several world records. He trained at Lokomotiv in Leninakan, Armenia. He earned the title Honoured Master of Sports of the USSR in 1977 and was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1985. In 1994 he was elected a member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.
Vardanyan was born on 13 June 1956 in Leninakan, Armenian SSR, a city well known for its weightlifters. He began weight training in 1970 under the guidance of his uncle Sergey Vardanyan.
Yuri Vardanyan first came onto the international weightlifting scene in 1977. He competed against Peter Wenzel of East Germany, one of the top middleweights in the world, twice that year and defeated him both times. Also that same year Vardanyan also won the Championship of the USSR for the first time. Vardanyan had set all the world records in the division by the time of the Weightlifting European Championships at the age of 20 and became a Weightlifting World Champion for the first time at the age of 21. For his deeds, he received the Honoured Master of Sports of the USSR award that year.
In 1978, Vardanyan moved up to the light heavyweight division (82.5 kg). He soon became the European Champion again and set all the division records by the time of the Championships. Four months later, at the World Championships, Vardanyan came into the competition relatively overshadowed by more well-known weightlifters, such as David Rigert. Vardanyan caught the eyes of the weightlifting world by breaking all of his own records again and defeating silver medalist Péter Baczakó of Hungary by 25 kg in the total in a dominant performance.
Vardanyan's spot as the best light heavyweight in the world had gone unchallenged once again in 1979. He set many world records at the USSR competitions that year, leaving the world record in the total at 390 kg. Because of his success so far, great expectations were set for Vardanyan at the Olympics the coming year.
Vardanyan met his wife Eleonora, a Russian athlete in the sport of luge, while training together in the USSR national sports selections. They got married in 1983 in Armenia. The couple have three sons: David (b. 1983), Norayr (b. 1987) and Michael (b. 1995). Their middle son, Norayr Vardanyan, is an Olympic weightlifter who represented Armenia in the 2012 Olympics and who now represents the United States.
Vardanyan moved to the United States in 1992 and settled in Los Angeles. He claimed that he had some political disagreements with then-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan and that served as a reason for him to move to the United States. He came back to Armenia in 2009.
On 8 October 2010, Vardanyan was in a car accident when his vehicle hit a tractor on the Yerevan-Gyumri highway. He was taken to a hospital in Ashtarak and was later transferred to Nairi Medical Center. Vardanyan received emergency surgery on a thigh bone and he sustained shin injuries, but recovered.
Vardanyan was hospitalized in the Erebuni medical center for an unknown reason on 22 April 2011. Doctors stated his condition was "grave but stable." That same day, Vardanyan was diagnosed with an embolism and during surgery for lower leg reconstruction, his heart stopped. He slipped into a coma. His condition was reported stable a few days later and he was released from the hospital on 13 May 2011.
To this day, Vardanyan is hailed as a hero in Armenia for his deeds in the sport of weightlifting. A stamp of Vardanyan was printed in 2010 in honor of him.
Yuri Vardanyan died on 1 November 2018 at the age of 62.