25-year-old Armenian Artur Dalaloyan representing Russian helped lead the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to a gold medal in the taut men’s team gymnastics final on Monday, and a devastating injury that usually puts athletes out commission for almost a year couldn’t stop him, reports Insider.
Dalaloyan is only three months removed from suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon, which required surgery in April. However, he fought his way back from the injury in just three months, unheard of among athletes, to win gold in Tokyo.
“After an injury like this, I appreciate the work I did even more,” Dalaloyan said after the event. “Now I know that all that work was not for nothing. This medal is absolutely priceless.”
Dalaloyan suffered the injury while training for the European Championships in April and required surgery. The healing can take as little as six to eight weeks, but it needs additional time to allow the muscles to regain their normal strength, according to patient.info. Surgery only extends that wait time.
It is also common for the muscles to never fully return to pre-injury form.
In Dalaloyan’s case, the injury was so severe that he initially planned not to go to the Tokyo Olympics shortly after his surgery.
“I didn’t plan to compete,” Dalaloyan said after the first round on Saturday. “Then, I had a meeting with the team and my coach. I felt the strength and power to compete and decided to compete.”
Russian gymnastics officials insisted Dalaloyan would join the team in Tokyo back in May. Then in June, he was back on the floor competing at Russian Cup, where he only did four events and couldn’t dismount, but it was the first step toward claiming one of the most unexpected gold medals at this year’s Olympics.
Still, Dalaloyan wasn’t entirely sure he’d even compete in the week leading up to this event.
Dalaloyan planned not to do floor or vault, and after podium training Wednesday, he wasn’t sure he’d compete at all.
But he appeared on the floor for the opening round on Saturday and claimed the fourth-best score with an 85.957. After his performance, he was seen sobbing in his hands due to the emotional weight of the comeback.
“I couldn’t control my emotions,” he said after the performance on Saturday. “I was kind of proud I could make it, I could come to this point and do all the exercises all the way I really wanted to. The other part of me felt disappointment in a sense because I understand I could not do all the exercises perfectly.”
Dalaloyan and his teammates then put together a historic performance on Monday in the final with a total score of 262.500 to edge out China, which scored 261.894 for the gold medal. It is the first gold medal claimed by Russian gymnasts in a men’s artistic gymnastics team event since 1996.