Dons tuning in to the Olympics Feb. 24 or 26 might think they see a familiar face speeding down the slopes – and they aren’t imagining it. One may have seen her strolling across Harney Plaza just a month ago. Now she is in Vancouver, British Columbia, rubbing elbows with top athletes and preparing to compete in the largest athletic competition in the world. This week, sophomore Ani Serebrakian will be skiing in two Olympic events, representing the Republic of Armenia.
Serebrakian, an exercise and sports science major at USF, grew up in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Her parents are from Armenia, and she holds dual citizenship in Armenia and the United States.
Throughout her childhood, Serebrakian skied with her family regularly at northern California snow parks such as Northstar at Tahoe and Squaw Valley. She came to USF as a freshman, already with a slew of skiing competitions under her belt, and continued to train on weekends.
Now all of her hard work has paid off. Serebrakian is skiing in two Alpine skiing events, women’s slalom and women’s giant slalom, in the world’s top competition.
Slalom skiing is a technical sport that focuses on speed and accuracy. The athlete’s goal is to ski through a series of poles, or gates, as quickly as possible. Giant slalom is like slalom but the gates are fewer and more spread apart.
Though she is competing in events toward the end of the Olympic Games, Serebrakian has been in Vancouver since Feb. 5. She has been documenting the experience via postcards to “The Novato Advance,” the local Novato newspaper, in which she has talked about marching in the Opening Ceremony, meeting her Armenian teammates, practicing for the competition and living life at the Olympic Village.
Interestingly, Serebrakian is not the only Don in recent history to compete in the Olympics. Just a year and a half ago, sophomore Haley Nemra competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the Marshall Islands. Like Serebrakian, Nemra grew up in the United States, but competed for the country in which her father was born and raised. Nemra ran the women’s 800 meter dash for the small island country.
Armenia is a relatively new country to the Olympics. Stepping into the arena in 1994, shortly after declaring its independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has yet to win a gold medal.
This year, the country sent four athletes to compete in the Olympic games. Serebrakian said she was grateful to be one of them. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m kind of still in awe that I’m here… My whole goal was to make it to the Olympics. Qualifying for it, I feel I’ve achieved so much already.”