GLENDALE — American-Armenian athlete Allison Halverson has gained Armenian citizenship and will most likely represent Armenia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
An NCAA runner-up at San Diego State, 2014 graduate Halverson hopes to qualify for the 24-woman heptathlon field at the August 2020 Games.
“But I have to pick up my passport in Armenia, which is going to be awesome,” she said.
She’s looking forward to traveling to the capital Yerevan.
“I’ve never been to Armenia, you know, but then I’ve been thinking about it,” she said. “I’d rather compete for another country and be there” instead of miss the U.S. team despite being one of the world’s best. “If I’m there, I deserve to be there.”
In October 2019 Halverson and her “100% Armenian” mother (maiden name Stepanian) drove to the Armenian Consulate in Glendale, presented proof of nationality and applied for a passport.
“Everything went very smoothly and they told me … they will mail [forms] to Armenia,” she said. “After that in a month I will receive a tracking number by email.”
Robert Emmiyan, president of the Armenian Athletics Federation and a former Soviet long jumper with the fourth-best mark in history, was excited when Halverson told him she’s half-Armenian and wanted dual citizenship.
“He said: ‘I’ll take you anywhere. We’ll go to all the meets — the European championships” and other meets where she’ll be able to rack up world rankings points — a change in the Olympic qualifying system that once relied on “A” and “B” standards and a top-three finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
According to family lore, Halverson’s maternal grandfather came to America after World War I. “One of the documents we found — his mother wrote this letter or note that during the Armenian genocide, they dressed up my grandpa as a little girl — because they were killing boys,” she said. “They said he was 5, even though he was 7, and they got him on a ship that went to Ellis Island.”
“Just over 100 years ago my ancestors faced some of the hardest times ever seen on this earth… many of them lost their lives in unspeakable ways, but my grandfather was able to narrowly escape the Armenian Genocide by dressing up as a young girl and taking a boat to Ellis Island. Without my ancestors’ sacrifices and courage, I wouldn’t be here today. I have fallen in love with this amazing, beautiful, welcoming, and strong country and am excited to see what the future holds for myself and Armenia,” she wrote.