Franco-Armenian wrestler abandons Olympic dream over safety fears in Baku

Armenian-born French wrestler Gagik Snjoyan has abandoned his Olympic dream over security fears by refusing to take part in the European wrestling qualifiers in Azerbaijan, reports AFP.

Snjoyan was France’s number one wrestler in the 67 kg Greco-Roman category and was due to compete in the European qualifiers in Baku on 5-7 April, but was dissuaded from travelling by his family, who feared for his safety. 

“Any Armenian who enters Azerbaijani territory risks not coming back. It’s not me who says that, it’s life that has shown that,” the 22-year-old told AFP. “Honestly, it’s understandable. If you’ve been following the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan lately, it’s really complicated. No Armenian goes to Azerbaijan and vice versa,” he stressed.

Born in Yerevan in 2001, Snjoyan began his wrestling career in his native country before his family sought asylum in France a decade ago.

Despite being offered increased security by the French Wrestling Federation, Snjoyan said he had been forced to make the “most difficult” decision of his career.” “I have never been in a situation like this before. I don’t think it happens to me, it happens to others. And when it happens to us, it’s not easy to deal with, to be honest,” he said. 

“On the one hand you have your family and on the other hand you have your dream and your sweat that has been flowing for decades. I decided to put my family first,” added Snjoyan.

He was replaced by French N2 Mamadassa Sylla, who won the Olympic quota on the first day of qualifying on 5 April.

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