We LIVE for stories of perseverance, grittiness, and determination. We hear them all the time from racers in our community, but we also love to report on inspirational, badass stories from OUTSIDE the Spartan Universe — stories that we can learn from, that can help us become even more unbreakable. In Tough News, we share what we're hearing, why it's important, and why Spartans need to pay attention.
Imagine what it must feel like to spend four years training tirelessly, giving it everything you have, making sacrifice after sacrifice, in order to ready yourself for one event that will define your legacy as an athlete. That's an experience unique to Olympians.
Now imagine what it must feel like when, after four years of training, you have to wait another year to compete due to a once-in-a-generation global pandemic that postponed the Games. That's an experience unique to Olympians in 2021.
And now imagine that, after four years of training and a yearlong postponement, you suffer a devastating injury a mere three months before the competition of your life, jeopardizing your ability to compete. That's an experience unique to Artur Dalaloyan.
Dalaloyan, a 25-year-old Russian artistic gymnast, suffered a crushing blow in April when, while training for the 2020 Games — held in 2021 due to COVID — he ruptured his Achilles. With the Olympics just weeks away, it seemed unthinkable and improbable that the 2018 World All-Around Champion would recover in time to represent the Russian Olympic Committee in Tokyo.
'I Started Fighting Every Minute'
Shortly after sustaining the injury, the five-time European champion underwent surgery. After initial feelings of concern and shock — not to mention anesthesia — wore off, Dalaloyan got right back to work, doing exercises on a mat and keeping fit despite his compromised condition.
"I started fighting every minute, even before I was on the operating table," the 2019 World All-Around silver medalist said. "And after surgery, after my Achilles was sewn up, the day after the anesthetic wore off, I started work straight away."
Dalaloyan refused to let a cast on one leg — and bandages on the other — stop him from chasing his Olympics dream. Day in and day out he continued to push himself, never wasting a second in the pursuit of a spot in Tokyo. Less than two months later, he made it all the way back, earning a spot on the ROC.
"Why should I be worried?" Dalaloyan asked hypothetically during his recovery period. "I do my job and I can't do more than that. Because the main opponent for me is me. The most difficult task for me is to fight myself, to overcome my own problems and my injury."
Capturing Gold for the First Time in 25 Years
If the story ended there it would be spectacular in its own right. But that was only the beginning.
In the taut men's team gymnastics final, Dalaloyan helped Russia capture its first gold medal in the team event since 1996. Led by spectacular performances by Dalaloyan and his teammate, 24-year-old Nikita Nagornyy, ROC posted a final score of 262.500, narrowly edging usual powerhouses Japan (262.397) and China (261.894).
"After an injury like this, I appreciate the work I did even more," an overjoyed Dalaloyan said after his team's triumphant victory. "Now I know that all that work was not for nothing. This medal is absolutely priceless."
Time and time again throughout the Olympics, we are reminded that there are no limits to what you can accomplish when you set your mind to something and work towards it. Dalaloyan's miraculous comeback is the best example yet.