The amazing story of Shavarsh Karapetyan

Today, I want to tell you about Shavarsh Karapetyan, a retired former Soviet finswimmer, best known for saving the lives of 20 people in a 1976 incident in Yerevan.


During his career, Karapetyan became a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR and an eleven-time world record-breaker in fin swimming. He acquired 7 Soviet championships, 13 European championships, and 17 world championships for a total of 37 gold medals by the time he retired at the age of 24.


On February 16, 1976, Shavarsh Karapetyan embarked on a 12-mile run with his brother. Little did they know that their journey would take an unexpected turn. As they reached their destination, their eyes widened in disbelief as they witnessed a horrifying scene: a trolley bus careening off its path and crashing into the Yerevan reservoir.


Without hesitation, Shavarsh’s heroic instincts kicked in. With the determination of a true champion, he fearlessly dove into the icy waters and swam towards the sinking bus. Despite the murky depths and complete lack of visibility, he mustered every ounce of strength and kicked in the back window, even injuring himself in the process. Undeterred, he embarked on a remarkable rescue mission, saving twenty individuals trapped inside the bus, one precious life at a time. For hours, he tirelessly battled the cold water and the formidable obstacles in his path, displaying an unwavering commitment to the well-being of others.


However, the selfless act of bravery came at a great personal cost. The chilling effects of the cold water, combined with his injuries from shattering the window, resulted in Shavarsh’s hospitalization for a staggering 45 days. During this challenging period, he grappled with pneumonia, sepsis, and lung damage, ultimately bringing an end to his promising athletic career. His sacrifice was a testament to his extraordinary courage and unwavering dedication to the lives he had saved.


For years, Shavarsh’s extraordinary acts of heroism went largely unknown, hidden in the annals of untold stories. It wasn’t until 1982, when an article about the event finally shed light on his incredible feat, that his name and remarkable deeds were recognized. The world began to learn about the indomitable spirit of Shavarsh Karapetyan, forever etching his name in the annals of heroism.


Yet, the tale of his bravery did not end there. In a twist of fate, three years later in 1985, Shavarsh found himself face to face with another life-threatening situation. As he happened to pass by a burning building, his instincts once again took over. Without hesitation, he rushed into the engulfed structure, disregarding his own safety, to save those trapped inside. Displaying unwavering courage, he rescued numerous individuals, one at a time, until his body could no longer bear the strain. Collapsing from exhaustion, he emerged from the burning inferno, only to be met with severe burns and further damage to his lungs.


Despite his injuries, Karapetyan made a full recovery. He continued to swim competitively, and he even set several more world records. He also began to work as a coach, and he helped to train many young swimmers who went on to win medals at international competitions.


In 1985, Karapetyan was awarded the Hero of Socialist Labour, the highest honour in the Soviet Union. He was also awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and the Order of the Badge of Honour.


In addition to his swimming achievements, Karapetyan is also a talented artist and sculptor. He has created a number of sculptures, including a monument to the victims of the 1988 Armenian earthquake.


Karapetyan is a national hero in Armenia. He is a symbol of courage, selflessness, and determination. He is an inspiration to people all over the world.


Shavarsh Karapetyan’s remarkable story serves as a testament to the power of the human spirit and the impact one individual can have on the lives of many. Despite the immense challenges he faced, Shavarsh never allowed his injuries to define him. Instead, he embraced his new path with unwavering determination and a resilient spirit.


As we reflect on the now 70 year old’s incredible journey, let us draw inspiration from his indomitable spirit and channel that energy into our own lives. May we be reminded that even in the face of adversity, we have the power to make a difference, to extend a helping hand, and to be the heroes of our own stories.


Let us honour Shavarsh Karapetyan, a true beacon of hope and resilience, and celebrate his enduring legacy. His selfless acts of heroism will forever remain etched in my heart, reminding me of the boundless capacity for compassion and courage that lies within each and every one of us.

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