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Sarajian: The Last Lion

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Old 07 Oct 14, 16:15   #1 (permalink)
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Post Sarajian: The Last Lion

By Ken Sarajian

It was a simple conversation at the Olympic Ball in Philadelphia a few years ago, between two coaches talking coaching and kids. Aram Sonny Gavoor had seen my daughter compete in her first Olympics and had noticed a few things that he wanted to share with me, so that I could pass them on. As we talked, I thought back to so many Olympics and to the many men and women who had made the Olympics special. And then it hit me. As I thought of the AYF logo with its lion in the center, and as I thought of the people who taught me about the AYF and its Olympics, I realized that Sonny Gavoor was one of the last Lions.

Sonny Gavoor and Ken Sarajian

Sonny is certainly part of AYF lore. With his brother Buddy (Richard), he was part of a formidable Watertown Gaidzag Chapter, and with their teammates were lightning on the track. With his wife, Violet, he raised a family of AYFers: Mark (more known for his writing and musical contributions to our community) and daughters Laura, Ani, and womens all-time high scorer and his coaching descendant, Nancy. With the help of men like George Panosian, he created a new era in AYF Olympic history, as the Detroit Kopernik Tandourjian (KT) Chapter became a formidable nemesis to the Providence Varantians and Boston Siamantos. With Steve Panosian in the pool, Jill Tosoian Dolik on the golf course and in the pool, and his daughter, Nancy, on the track, they invigorated the chapter. In 1975, in Detroit, Sonny was named the Olympic King.

But Sonny wasnt in this just for the Detroit KTs or his children. Sonny was all-in. As the AYF and the Olympics grew in the early 1970s, there were growing pains in the proper organization and running of the Olympics. Several AYF alumni came together and, working with the Central Executive and a subsequent AYF Convention, the AYF Governing Body was created. As it evolved, there were many Lions that served on the early days of the Governing Body, including Shant Chebookjian, Haig Varadian, Armen Boyadjian, Avo Alashaian, Sonny Gavoor, and others. Led by Shant Chebookjian, they created a blueprint for the Olympics that led it into an era of athletic, social, and financial success for the AYF.

So many of those who helped put the Olympicsand in turn, the organizationson solid ground are gone. But when I go to the Olympics, Sonny is there and still coaching. Above all else thats what Sonny is about. He understands the importance of the Olympics to the AYF for a variety of reasons: how it brought kids into the organization, how it kicked off our AYF year, and how it provided us the financial support to fund our organizations activities.

Sonny coached each new generation of Detroit KTs. He watched his grandchildren compete. But he is so much more. He loves to watch all kids compete and helps each and every one of them. And he knows everything that is going on. Every once in a while I will get a call from him. It might be about an AYFer serving in Afghanistan who organized a marathon and ended up on ESPN, or some young Armenian Americans who are excelling in swimming and have U.S. Olympic potential. Sonny is a coach, and also used his talents to help the Homenetmen as they prepared to go to their world games in Armenia.

How appropriate that Sonny and Violet were the inaugural recipients of the AYF Varadian Spirit Award!

This year, as I was thinking about Sonny, our last Lion from that initial group, I was at the swimming venue. He greeted me. Sonny has had some health issues and is a bit less steady. But he still sees everything. One moment he was pointing out to me the name of some exceptional Armenians on the venues list of record holders, and the next he was down by the pool. He had noticed something wrong in the meet and went down to correct them. Sonny is a coach.

We got to see a new generation of Detroit KTs bring home a championship, and Sonny and Violet were there to share it. Sonny and I talked coaching again, and I loved it. As the chapter dances were taking place during the Olympic Ball and the New Jersey Arsens had just finished the dance for their 3rd-place finish, as the New Jersey kids, coaches, parents, and alumni were enjoying the last moment of their success, I was tapped on the shoulder. It was Sonny standing there with Violet offering his congratulations to our chapter. Sonny cares about all the kids doing well, whichever chapter they may be from.

Yes, Sonny is always there to watch and coach. Each year I ask him if I will see him at the next Olympics, and he always says he intends to be. Sonny, the last Lion, Ill see you in Providence. became a formidable nemesis to the Providence Varantians and Boston Siamantos. With Steve Panosian in the pool, Jill Tosoian Dolik on the golf course and in the pool and his daughter, Nancy, on the track they invigorated the chapter. In 1975, in Detroit, Sonny was named the Olympic King.

But Sonny wasnt in this just for the Detroit KTs of his children. Sonny was all-in.

As the AYF and the Olympics grew in the early 70s there were growing pains in the proper organization and running of the Olympics. Several AYF Alumni came together and working with the CE and a subsequent AYF Convention, the AYF Governing Body was created. As it evolved, there were many Lions that served on the early days of the Governing Body including Shant Chebookjian, Haig Varadian, Armen Boyadjian, Avo Alashaian, Sonny Gavoor, and others. Led by Shant Chebookjian, they created a blueprint for the Olympics that led it into an era of athletic, social and financial success for the AYF.

So many of those who helped put the Olympics, and in turn, the organizations on solid ground are gone. But when I go to the Olympics, Sonny was there; and still coaching. Above all else thats what Sonny is about. He understands the importance of the Olympics to the AYF for a variety of reasons. How it brought kids into the organization, how it kicked off our AYF year and how it provided us the financial support to fund our organizations activities.

Sonny coached each new generation of DKTs. He watched his grandchildren compete. But he is so much more. He loves to watch all kids compete and help each and every one of them. And he knows everything that is going on. Every once in a while I will get a call from him. It might be about an AYFer serving in Afghanistan who organized a marathon and ended up on ESPN, or some young Armenian-Americans who are excelling in swimming and have US Olympic potential. Sonny is a coach He also used his talents to help the Homenetmen as they prepared to go to their world games in Armenia.

How appropriate that Sonny and Violet were the inaugural recipients of the AYF Varadian Spirit Award!

This year, as I was thinking about Sonny, our last lion from that initial group, I was at the swimming venue. He greeted me. Sonny has had some health issues and is a bit less steady. But he still sees everything. One moment he was pointing out to me the name of some exceptional Armenians on the venues list of record holders, and the next he was down by the pool. He had noticed something wrong in the meet and went down to correct them. Sonny is a coach.

We got to see a new generation of DKT athletes bring home a championship and that Sonny and Violet were there to share it. Sonny and I talked coaching again and I loved it. As the chapter dances were taking place during the Olympic Ball and the NJ Arsens had just finished the dance for their 3rd place finish. As the NJ kids, coaches, parents and alumni were enjoying the last moment of their success I was tapped on the shoulder. It was Sonny standing there with Violet offering his congratulations to our chapter. Sonny cares about all the kids doing well, whatever chapter they may be from.

Yes, Sonny is always there to watch and coach. Each year I ask him if I will see him at the next Olympics and he always says he intends to be. Sonny, the last lion, Ill see you in Providence.



The post Sarajian: The Last Lion appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


By Ken Sarajian It was a simple conversation at the Olympic Ball in Philadelphia a few years ago, between two coaches talking coaching and kids. Aram Sonny Gavoor had seen my daughter compete in her first Olympics and had noticed a few things that he wanted to share with me, so that I could pass them on. As we talked, I thought back to so many Olympics and to the many men and women who had made the Olympics special. And then it hit me. As I thought of the AYF logo with its lion in the center, and as I thought of the people who taught me about the AYF and its Olympics, I realized that Sonny Gavoor was one of the last Lions. Sonny Gavoor and Ken Sarajian Sonny is certainly part of AYF lore. With his brother Buddy (Richard), he was part of a formidable Watertown Gaidzag Chapter, and with their teammates were lightning on the track. With his wife, Violet, he raised a family of AYFers: Mark (more known for his writing and musical contributions to our community) and daughters Laura, Ani, and womens all-time high scorer and his coaching descendant, Nancy. With the help of [...]

The post Sarajian: The Last Lion appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


By Ken Sarajian It was a simple conversation at the Olympic Ball in Philadelphia a few years ago, between two coaches talking coaching and kids. Aram Sonny Gavoor had seen my daughter compete in her first Olympics and had noticed a few things that he wanted to share with me, so that I could pass them on. As we talked, I thought back to so many Olympics and to the many men and women who had made the Olympics special. And then it hit me. As I thought of the AYF logo with its lion in the center, and as I thought of the people who taught me about the AYF and its Olympics, I realized that Sonny Gavoor was one of the last Lions. Sonny Gavoor and Ken Sarajian Sonny is certainly part of AYF lore. With his brother Buddy (Richard), he was part of a formidable Watertown Gaidzag Chapter, and with their teammates were lightning on the track. With his wife, Violet, he raised a family of AYFers: Mark (more known for his writing and musical contributions to our community) and daughters Laura, Ani, and womens all-time high scorer and his coaching descendant, Nancy. With the help of [...]

The post Sarajian: The Last Lion appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


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