One Thursday in September 1976, Shavarsh Karapetyan was reaching the end of a 13-mile training run. Strapped to the dedicated athlete’s back was a rucksack containing 45 pounds of sand. Suddenly he heard an ear-splitting crash. Looking round, he realized a bus had plunged into the depths of Lake Yerevan. Unless they could be rescued quickly, the passengers were clearly doomed.
Shavarsh Vladimiri Karapetyan was born in the Armenian city of Kirovakan, since renamed Vanadzor, in May 1953. At the time, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, although it became an independent republic in 1991. Karapetyan was his parents’ first-born child, and was followed by two brothers, Kamo and Anatoly.
The young Karapetyan was brought up in a bungalow until his family moved to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in 1966. His father Vladimir had dreams of his sons becoming athletes, and Shavarsh joined a gymnastics school in Yerevan. It was overseen by a former Olympic champion, Albert Azaryan.