Joe Almasian was a mechanical engineer who played soccer and ran track at the University of New Hampshire. In 1994, when Armenia had become an independent nation, he joined with Ken Topalian, a friend of his from Providence, Rhode Island, to form a bobsled team for Armenia at the Lillehammer Olympics. They were inspired to do so by an older friend, Paul Varadian, a former competitive sledder who knew them through the Providence Chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). In late 1992, Almasian and Topalian began driving to the Olympic Training Centre in Lake Placid (a 6-hour trip) every Friday and spent the weekends there learning to bobsled, trained by former US Olympian Jim Hickey. Almasian and Topalian received permission to compete from the Armenian government only 2½ weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics began. Neither has been on a bobsled since the 1994 Olympics, and neither has ever set foot in Armenia (through 2014). Almasian has stated that he competed to honor his grandparents, who escaped from Armenia in 1915 after the Turkish genocide.
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