Hayk Amirbekyan: Olympic Hopeful

Canada’s Next Great Olympic Taekwondo Star

It’s because of Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme that Hayk Amirbekyan is where he is today. Well, sort of. When the 26-year-old was just nine, he convinced his parents to let him practise taekwondo at a club in his hometown of Richmond Hill; he had seen the two actors showcasing complex moves in their films and wanted to emulate them. Now, after nearly 17 years of hard work, he’s finally ready for his starring role: Tokyo 2020.

“My goal has always been to be the best in the world,” he says, adding that early on he noticed he had the physical assets needed to excel at the martial art. “I knew I had a lot of potential.”

Earning his black belt at just 14, Hayk pushed himself to train and compete often, winning several provincial titles along the way. He eventually caught the eye of some of Canada’s top athletes when he became a National Heavyweight Taekwondo Champion.

My goal has always been to be the best in the world

“I had heard of his competitiveness,” says Grandmaster Victor Luke, a 7th degree Black Belt. “He can probably outperform many athletes in front of him. When he competes, he goes full out.”

But it wasn’t until the Olympic hopeful responded to an ad for a taekwondo teacher at Victor’s Forest Hill Champion Taekwondo outpost that the two became acquainted.

Now, not only do they work together – training the next generation of martial arts champions – they’ve developed an important mentor-mentee relationship that’s helping Hayk take his game to the next level.

He can probably outperform many athletes in front of him. When he competes, he goes full out.

“Hayk is very physical – he is probably one of the strongest I’ve seen in the circuit,” Victor says. “He’s got all of the requirements that an Olympian would have. But young athletes need proper guidance. Those that don’t make it often fail because they’re not properly mentored.”

Martial law: Success is Hayk’s ambition

For Hayk, the biggest lessons right now involve practising patience in the face of adversity. For about eight months he’s battled a groin injury that has sidelined him from his regular practice.

Though he’s itching to fully return to the mats, he knows that letting his body heal will help him in the long run. “I’m getting better every day,” he says.

So until he’s 100 per cent, and he can resume his rigorous twice-a-day training schedule (complete with classical music playing in the background), Hayk says he’ll coach his students to become champions in their own right.

Hayk is very physical – he is probably one of the strongest I’ve seen in the circuit

He’ll also remain laser-focused on his goal of winning an Olympic medal. “I feel motivated and inspired. I want to train, I want to run, I want to fight. I’m ready.”

And right there by his side will be Victor and the whole Luke family. They all expect to be in Tokyo cheering on Hayk in 2020. “It’s a long road and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to sports, but it’s a dream, his dream,” Victor says. “Hayk has everything that’s needed to make it… It’s a very exciting time.”

Sarah Walker is a freelance writer who lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and daughter.

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