Known as “the Lord of the Rings”, Albert Azaryan was the greatest rings gymnast of his era, and one of the greatest of all time. Buy it was in Rome that he secured his place in the history books.
Azaryan had won two gold medals in Melbourne four years earlier, with victory in the rings and as a member of the Soviet all-round team. In 1960, he did even better, and left behind a legacy that remains intact to this day.
The son of a blacksmith, Azaryan didn't even take up gymnastics until he was 16 years old, by which age which many gymnasts are already established at the highest level. Yet he showed an immediate affinity for it, and in particular for the rings, which require great strength, co-ordination and concentration.
His closest rival in Rome was another great athlete from the Soviet Union, Borys Shakhlin - himself one of the great gymnasts.
Shakhlin produced a performance that would have been good enough for a gold in most other editions of the Olympics, but found himself comfortably beaten in both qualifying and in the final by Azaryan, who retained his title and also took a silver in the team all-around.
Azaryan retired after the 1960 Games but his name continues to ring out through the Azaryan Cross, a manoeuvre that he pioneered in which the gymnast hangs straight with his arms outstretched. He was given further recognition in 2004 when Armenia, by then an independent country following the break-up of the Soviet Union, asked him to carry the country’s flag during the Opening Ceremony.
Azaryan's son Eduard continued the family’s gymnastics tradition, winning gold in 1980 as part of the Soviet team.