Photo by Silvia Vatteroni
Houry Gebeshian is a young Armenian American woman who has a worth sharing story.

Gebeshian was born on July 27th in 1989 in Massachusetts, USA. Her grandparents moved to Lebanon after fleeing the Armenian genocide in 1915 while her parents moved from Lebanon to the states fleeing the civil war.

Houry started gymnastics at the age of 5. When she was in high school, her mother and her athletic trainer advised her to compete internationally for her country of origin. She did not take their advice seriously at that time which she regretted later.

In 2008, she started her collegiate gymnastics competing for Iowa Hawkeyes. In 2011, she earned a trip to the NCAA Nationals. It was only after her college gymnastics career that she seriously thought of competing in elite gymnastics.

One of her dad's friends informed her that the National Olympic Committee of Armenia was looking for female athletes. He asked her if she would be interested in competing for the country. The Armenia’s Olympic Committee helped Gebeshian obtain the Armenian citizenship 

The 2011 World championships was Houry's first major international elite competition. There, her goal was to qualify to the London test event and then qualify onto the 2012 London Olympic Games. 

She pushed herself too hard that her body could not handle it. She developed a stress fracture in her heel a month before the competition which forced her to water down her routines. She finished in 128th place and was given an alternate spot. She continued training hoping that one of the qualified gymnasts to the test event would drop out but no one did. She was devastated and believed her life was over.

The pain of not making the Olympics was too deep that she could not watch the London Games.

Trying to move on, she went to graduate school to study medicine and become physician assistant. During her first medical rotation, she met her future fiance Duane who had a similar story to her. He played college football and had an injury that put an end to his career. He talked to her about her gymnastics career and encouraged her to give it a shot.

Houry hated the sport when she left it but she knew she deserved better than this and that she had unfinished business.

The American Armenian gymnast started training for the sport all by her self without a coach. She re-taught herself the skills she had in college and the routines she performed at the 2011 World championships.

To motivate herself, she set the background image of her phone to the 2015 World Championships logo.

Eventually she got all her skills back and was doing the her best gymnastics ever. She was really proud of herself for getting herself there. 

But how did she balance an intense training schedule with work?

When she applied for a job in the Department of Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, she told them that gymnastics is her number one priority. Luckily, the clinic responded to her that they would make it work. 

She delivered babies on nights and weekends, and trained all the days which she does not work in. 

Houry made her comeback debut in a major international competition at the 2015 European championships where she qualified to the all around finishing in 19th place.

She then competed at the same year's World championship and earned ticket to the Rio test event, the final Olympic qualifier where she had a successful performance and qualified herself to the Olympics.

By competing in Rio, Houry became Armenia's first female Olympic gymnast. But for her that was not enough. She wanted her name to stand out and last.

She first though about qualifying to the vault finals. In order for a gymnast to qualify to the apparatus' finals, she needs to have two vaults. For her, it was impossible as she knew she could not get two vaults at a high level. She then though about qualifying to the all around final but again she does not have a high level vault hence her chances were slim.

She then thought about having a skill bear her name. Houry used to do a hecht jump over low bar to high one mount back in college. She though of adding a half twist to it. A free jump with half turn over low bar to hand on high bar was already in the CoP. Hence, she thought of doing it with hand repulsion over low bar.

However, she tried training the skill but she will always end up in a dead hang no matter how hard she tried. She sought the advice of one of her former college coaches who told her to add another half twist to the mount.

Indeed, Houry successfully debuted it at the Olympics and had it named after her. The eponymous skill received a D rating.

As a competitive gymnast, Houry is officially done with gymnastics. She has a full time job, she is a step mom and wants to do other things. She loves the sport so much but knows that one cannot do it forever and at some point must move on. At the end, what is a better way for a gymnast to quit the sport when she is on the top.

But Houry, who was the only female Armenian elite gymnast, is actually not completely done with the sport. Using her name, she plans to develop a programme for Armenians, get more girls involved and help build a team. She has already found an Armenian girl who is interested in the programme. The young girl would be eligible to compete in 2020.

It is worth mentioning that all the funding and resources goes to the men's gymnastics programme in Armenia as they produce medals.

The former Armenian gymnast, who accomplished her dream at 27 years old, advises young gymnasts to love the sport and to remember that 'it is never too late to achieve their dreams'.

Written by Gigi Farid



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