Interview with Rafael Arutyunyan by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya. About Nathan Chen and swift development of figure skating.
Your athlete skated last in the free program and was the only one who withstand “falling”. How difficult was it to keep the concentration of your skater, despite the fact that all the strongest began to fall?
– When you wish your competitors to skate well and understand that with your own unmistakable performance you will beat them all, this creates normal and very positive psychological background. Because you have your own task, on which you are completely concentrated. In this state, the athlete does not need to look around and react to what is happening. After the short program, for example, everyone started asking me: “Why are you putting six quads in the free? Do three and you’ll beat everyone!” You also asked me after a short program, how we plan to skate in the final. And I answered you: the way it was originally planned. I try to accustom Nathan to this: a professional athlete should not pay attention at who and how skated. Important what is in your plan. Are six quads planned? So you need to go out and do them. Do not play with competitors in some games.
It is also important that the athlete understands what I have already said: if all his rivals skate at maximum, including him, he will still beat them all. During the performance even my wife began to worry because everyone was falling in the strongest warm-up. So I also calmed her: what’s the difference are they falling or not? If we do what we must, we will be first.
Another question is that I always feel sad for the athletes who are starting to fall. Every time I think: “Poor guys, how hard is it for them”. But it’s even harder for their coaches, to see all this from the outside and not be able to change something.
Chen was very nervous before the performance?
– On the contrary, he was absolutely calm. Thanks to the fact that after the Games I was given the opportunity to work very well with him, Nathan was perfectly ready to perform.
How did you manage to avoid the post-Olympic fatigue, which was so hard for many leaders in Milan? I suspect that after the Games your athlete, just like champions, was torn apart by the media, breaking the training schedule.
– Of course, we had all this. But we had three full weeks of training. The fact is that Chen has a very large technical advantage, a very good jump technique and I’m not saying this because he’s my student, any coach will tell you the same thing. Moreover, I already see that many people try to copy our technique, trying to catch up. They do our steps, our entries, but we did not start this work yesterday, but six years ago. Hence, we have a great advantage.
Your athlete has already made history of figure skating, he was the first to do all five quadruple jumps. Of course, everyone is excited by the question: when will we see Chen’s quad axel?
– It depends on how we will continue to work. Of course, we are preparing this jump, we are training it, it is becoming more and more real. Implementation is only a matter of condition. Here everything is like in the kitchen of a good cook: the more qualitive ingredients you take to prepare a dish, the more delicious the finished product turns out.
How do you think will it become easier or more difficult to work with Chen after he became the best in the free program at the Olympics and won the World Championships?
– I think easier. The main thing is that the “advisors” have departed from us. If you paid attention, in Milan, we had a very good and close communication with Nathan throughout the championship: during trainings, during competitions, outside the rink. I think he realized that first, it’s necessary to trust the coach and secondly it is necessary to constantly go forward. Otherwise, you won’t be able to survive four years in men’s figure skating. You won’t survive even two years because the technologies of achieving result have changed too much. Everyone started to understand how to achieve result, everyone is trying to do it the shortest way. As soon as this or that information appears on the Internet, it is immediately started to be analyzed and used. Previously it was like: someone somewhere showed something new, at best it was filmed on a tape and passed with an opportunity in a few months. Now everything happens swiftly. Including progress. Therefore, if a coach wants to do something new, he must hide from everyone and put piece into pieces. Show it and hide again.
Are you talking about yourself now?
– Of course. I have certain ideas, which, of course, I will not voice now, because this is my coaching bread and butter.
Many experts believe that in connection with the sharply increased number of quads, the number of serious injuries is also likely to increase. Are there ways to prevent this?
– Of course. I see only one way out – a clear calculation how many and which elements the athlete does. In what condition he is. Motorcyclists have this rule: if a person has been driving all night, then the next morning he does not sit on a motorcycle. This is not a car, the level of danger and risk is much higher. There are two wheels, not four. In figure skating it often happens that the person comes after holiday and starts to check, whether he has a quad or a triple axel. How is this possible if you are a professional? You’re not an iron robot with gasoline, but a person who has a body that has a habit of changing even after a rough weekend. You need to prepare the muscles, prepare head. The same can be said about the girls when they have puberty. A large number of jumps during this period is a very risky business.
What is more traumatic for the figure skater a large number of jumps on the ice or on the floor in the gym?
– Depends on what floor he jumps and what kind of shoes he wears. I, for example, do not allow my athletes to practice in the gym in soft sneakers, jumping in which the athlete constantly risks to twist an ankle.
I know that you have always been a supporter that little girls shouldn’t compete with senior skaters.
– I still think so. Look, for example Nathan Chen. Now he is old enough to compete at senior level. If before the current season he had competed in juniors, as it should be by his age, and he had known that it would be possible to compete with men and therefore receive big prize money only from the age of 18, probably he would not have seriously injured himself with premature quads. And reached this level being well strengthened, to live in sports for a long time, to perform a lot, to earn well. Under the current situation, everyone is eager to begin performing difficult jumps as early as possible, and I simply do not see any deterrent, to be honest. The trouble is that the International Skating Union, taking certain rules, does not ask for our opinion.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru