“There was no other choice...I knew that it wouldn’t be right if the world’s fastest underwater swimmer was there and didn’t even try to help.”
Who he is
Shavarash Karapetyan was a 17-time world champion finswimmer in Armenia during the Soviet Union’s existence. Despite his success as an athlete, he is best known for his incredible heroism.
On a September day in 1976, while training, Karapetyan heard a trolley bus skid off the road and land in frigid Lake Yerevan. As the bus sank, Karapetyan stripped off his clothes and jumped into the lake. As it hit bottom, he broke the windows of the bus and started to pull people out, one by one. In about 20 minutes, he pulled out over 30 passengers, although only 20 survived; some were already dead by the time he got to them.
As a result of his selfless actions he contracted pneumonia, and when the broken glass-induced gashes on his legs became infected, he developed sepsis. He was hospitalized for weeks and was in serious condition, but eventually recovered. His doctor said the only reason he survived was because he was in such prime physical shape due to his training.
Karapetyan’s injuries did not allow him to continue his career as an athlete and he had to leave sports. Years later, while walking in a neighborhood he came by a burning building and, again without hesitation, ran in and saved people inside. He was again injured and hospitalized.
He was one of those who carried the Olympic torch in the relay leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Karapetyan has an asteroid named after him: 3027 Shavarsh
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