Arda Kalpaklian got started with track and field at the age of 18, when before, she used to play basketball, volleyball and football in her school. She was trained by Vartkès Eskibatchian before the 1972 Summer Olympics, and has remained to the Homentmen Club throughout her career. After Munich 1972, she met Krikor Santigan, a Roman coach, who gave her a training program that she followed letter by letter, then Krikor left, leaving Arda behind, and training alone. Arda broke many records, and it became a habit. At 400m run, her record was 1:00.8 in Beyrouth Stadium (which waswithout track). On 800m, she has improved her record from 2:33.3 in 1972, to 2:25 on April 1973, and then to 2:20. A record of 2:24.4 hasn't been ratified because of the new rule applied by the Lebanese Athletics Federation that obliged the 800m runners to stay in their lane in the first 100m. Arda was also the national record holder of the relay 4x100m with Anahid Saadajian, Ester Meztmouroukian and Hoda Nahid, and the national record holder of the 4x400m relay. With Vartkès Eskibatchian, Arda was trained twice a week. After the 1972 Olympic Games, she began to train more frequently. Throughout her athletic career, she never touched weights or used weight training.
Arda has tried many track and field disciplines, like: the high jump (1m35), the long jump (4m50), the 100m (13.1); where she was one of the best 100m runners at that time and she was a part of the relay National team who broke the Lebanese record in this event. She also tried the 200m (27s); where she beat the best Lebanese sprinter: Ester Metzmouroukian (here in the Picture on left), when all the supporters were encouraging Ester. It was at the Camille Chamoun Sports City in 1969.
Back to her most preferred discipline, the 400m. Where, as we already said, she broke the Lebanese record scoring 1:00.8 which was her last record at this distance. She did it at the Lebanese-Syrian meeting here in Lebanon. She also ran the 800m in 2min20s and the 1500m in 5min, a distance that she rarely attended. She also tried the javelin throw in 1970.
In every single discipline, Arda'a technique was perfect! From 100m to 1500 to jumps and trowing. (you can see it in the pictures below)
At 400m, 800m and 1500m, Arda had always ran alone. There has never been someone to motivate Arda or to beat her. She was nicknamed "the athlete who runs", she never knew loss in Lebanon. She was the Lebanese Champion over these distances for 13 years! For her, the absence of challenge and competition didn't help her improve her performances. Arda hadn't had spikes that fit her, she was obliged to wear two thick socks to be able to run with a single pair of spikes in all these distances. Moreover, she couldn't give her 100% in any competition, because she had to run the 400m, 800m, 1500m, 4x400m relay or the 4x100m relay in one single competition. She never could prepare one race properly. Arda had never known what a starting block is nor an electric gun, since there was no starting blocks and no electric guns in Lebanon at that time! She always ran without starting blocks and with a hand timer except in Munich, where she was obliged to start with a starting block, so it was her first try, even running on electric timing. One day, her brother Georges, who had supported her all the way and who was always beside her in the bad or sad moments, he supported her whims along the way. Georges made her a wooden starting block that she used for the 100m start (you can see it in the picture above). An injury that have never healed up now, which greatly hampered during her career, was a hamstring elongation while jumping in high with the Straddle technique (after Scissore technique and before Fosbury technique) she was 18 years old at that time and this injury has never healed, it recalls her today when she make any effort, so does a sprained toe.
Arda was named the best Lebanese athlete in 1972-1973, the best years in her career of athletics. In 1972, she was the first Lebanese and Armenian athlete to participate in the Olympic Games! (not only in track and field but also in other sports!). She left for the Olympics in Munich where she caught the Tonsillitis on her arrival, she was transported to the hospital and got treated, and was forced to miss the 800m (she went to run the 400 and the 800 meters) . Arda didn't want to stay in hospital to rest, the next day, she left the hospital's bed to go to the stadium to compete in the 400m. She was accompanied by a Lebanese journalist, Joseph Herden, who said on their way to the stadium: "I advise you not to run, it is very dangerous for you!" Arda replied: "I didn't come here as a tourist, I came as an athlete to compete! The only thing you can do is to sit down at the finish line and watch me; if I fall down and die, you surround me with the Lebanese flag and you send me back to Lebanon!" A sentence which was published in the newspaper by the journalist himself, a sentence that requires a lot of courage and love for her country and her sport!
Arda started, ran, and finished the 400m alive, but when she finished she had her ears plugged, she couldn't hear anything, but after her return to Lebanon, her auditory sensation returns to normal.
Also in 1972 in Munich, the Olympic Day has turned into a mourning day, as said Arda, after a terrible disaster that happened in the Olympic Village. (Not detailed for the security of our website). On a beautiful day in Munich, Arda was walking into the Olympic Village where she met a man on her way, who asked her where she came from, Arda told him that she is Lebanese and she showed him the official vest of Lebanon. This man was Armenian and asked her: "Are you Armenian?" she replied in Armenian: "Yes I am," and the man fell in tears in front of her! It was the first Armenian woman to participate in Olympic Games, and it was the most emotional moment of Arda's career!
Arda had also assisted to Mohammad Kheir Traboulsi's win of the Olympic Silver Medal in Munich! Where she wasn't allow to assist to the match! A day where Mohammad Kheir Traboulsi became a LEGEND in Weightlifting!
Arda Kalpaklian and Mohammad Kheir Traboulsi
Halab (1973-1974): For the first time, Arda had traveled with the club Mariste Champville to Halab - Syria, for a Lebanese-Syrian meeting. She spent 9 hours in the train leading to Aleppo, arriving at their destination, they lived in very bad conditions! With a temperature of 40°C and a hot strong wind, Arda has won there four gold medals! At 400m, 800m, 1500m and 4x400m! With the 4x400m relay Lebanese record in her pocket. The best feeling for her was standing on the podium listening and singing the Lebanese National anthem and viewing the Lebanese flag reaching up towards the sky above all others. This meeting was repeated again but this time in Lebanon, at the Beirut Municipal Stadium, when Arda had to run the 800m, 1500m and 4x400m relay. The 400m was not planned for this occasion. The first day, she disputes the 800m and 4x400m relay. The second day she had to compete in the 1500m. Claude Achkar, coach, came to tell her: "we are losing, we need points, so we want you to run the 400m!" Arda accepted and in the 400m (which was 20min after 1500m), when she reached the 300m's curve she was expecting to see Mira Jedeyon and Marianne Choueiry, her countrymen, but she only saw next to her the Syrian twins! Arda finished first in the 400m with a Lebanese record of 1:00.8 and four gold medals around the cost. Arda had many supporters. There was an old man that she didn't know, and who, whenever she would run, came with his hat and sat on the ground and always asked who was planning to run. Each time he knew that Arda is going to run, he would stay to watch her, but if she didn't he turns his back to the competition and leaves. Krikor Santiguian, the Romanian coach, told her: "You will be among the eight best in the 400m," during Arda's preparation for games of Montreal 1976. Arda stopped athletics in April 1975 when the war started in Lebanon, she was practicing in Jounieh's Stadium (that was also without track), where they were attacked, Arda and her teammates, by snipers. She decided then to quit athletics. Arda finished with track and field holding 6 National Records: 400m, 800m, 1500m, 4x400m and 4x100m relays.
Arda and Antoine Sebaali (National Coach) Arda with her Teammates and her coach Vartkès Eskibatchian Arda (on the right) with her Teammates and her coach Vartkès Eskibatchian (in the middle)
Arda With her coach of javelin throw. (Arda in the middle, her coach on her right)
Arda's number in the 1972 Olympic Games - Munich
I would thank you Arda, for all what you've taught me, for all your support and for being the one who first discovered me as an athlete and lead me to the right way of track and field athletics. You're an example for athletes of all ages, a living legend!