Rafael Arutyunyan: Athletes who want to win should work like Swiss watches
Interview with Rafael Arutyunyan at Rostelecom Cup 2018.
Not for the fist season we see not the most joyful situation in Russian men’s skating. Since we are at the very beginning of the next Olympic cycle, I want to understand what needs to be done to have a medal perspective for the 2022 Games in Tokyo?
– Of course, you need to take appropriate action, but this is the work of the national federation. The Russian Federation of Figure Skating is one of the most professional in the world. I know what I’m talking about – I work with athletes from different countries. Although to a certain extent in solving this problem the hands of the federation are tied.
– I will give you an example of Evgenia Medvedeva who moved from Eteri Tutberidze to Canadian Brian Orser in Toronto. This was a whole firework of opinions and most of them – harsh criticism. I suppose, of course, that negative opinions were expressed by ordinary people who don’t really understand figure skating, but still. Talking about tied hands, as a result of this change of coach the Federation got under such a flurry.
Well, from love to hate critics need half a step and here’s such a reason!
– Oh, there’s nothing “such” about it, we have all changed long ago. Go to the streets of Moscow, look and you won’t see Russian cars. So what? Is this that bad? So what’s wrong with Medvedeva going to work in Canada?
But what about all this endless talks about the Russian school of figure skating, Canadian, American?
– I have been working in America for a long time, but tell me what system do I have? The one I was brough up on? Now we look further, there are 10–15 American coaches around me. And they are not blind – they look, they see, they learn, they take something. Everyone remembers how the 1961 plane crash took the lives of all members of the American figure skating team. They were flying to the World Championships in Prague. All died – leading coaches, athletes, judges. Then people from Spain, Italy, and England came to work there.
After the collapse of the USSR, Russian coaches come there too. We have brought our culture, a lot of based on it. So when today you come to the US Nationals, you hear Russian there, half the coaches are Russian there. Igor Shpilband, a Soviet athlete, created the entire American ice dance school. This is the age of globalization, this is normal.
In the offseason you worked with our figure skater Mikhail Kolyada, do you see the results?
– He spent only ten days with us. I enjoyed working with him, he’s a good guy. He doubts – before he performs, he passes it all through himself. But in coaching, an athlete performs everything unquestioningly only when he trusts you completely. Then he doesn’t think whether my methods are suitable for him, he is sure that I know what I’m doing. You said and he does it, time is ticking! But you need time for this – at least two years the athlete “tries” you. Nevertheless, I saw obvious changes – he started the season well, skated clean, won two competitions.
– Then I haven’t seen him skating – I have my own work. There is a specific process of assembling the mechanism, the sequence of actions. I worked two years with Michal Brezina, and at his 30 he got to the Grand Prix final.
What did you teach him?
– He’s a very talented skater. But I taught him to come to the practice on time and leave it on time. He complained to me, it was hard for him, but I didn’t offer him anything super new, I offered him work.
And at a certain point it became easy for him. I always give an example – if you constantly run, then later it is easy for you to walk. You will be happy to walk.
Yes, we are “spoiled” by Plushenko, Yagudin, Kulik and even Abt. But with such skaters as Russia has now, it is possible and necessary to think about places at the Beijing Olympics. Misha is a huge talent. His jumps can only be compared with Fadeev’s or with Yagudin’s – power! Strength! But athletes who want to win should work like a watches. Swiss watches. Original, not fake ones. In sport there are no little details.
It turns out that Eteri Tutberidze also has a “Swiss watch”? The result is good and stable.
– Firstly, she has a good supplier factory. Secondly, the girls who come to her are from the very beginning better prepared technically than the foreign figure skaters with whom they will have to compete.
Wonders of selection process?
– This is a skaters production factory; there are no such 11-12-year-old girls anywhere else in the world. They have “double strength”. And in addition to this, excellent specialists work in Eteri’s group, and she herself is an excellent coach.
When they bring a 19 year-old girl to me and say “She is still young”. To which I usually reply: “Young? Young for marriage?” And I start working with her. Now I work with Maria Bell, she is 22. Well, how can I make her work like a Swiss mechanism, when she stopped falling just a couple of years ago?
Or Adam Rippon, he is 28 now. But in five years of work, I still managed to shake something out of him – he got into the top ten at the Olympics, but when he came to me at the age of 23, he came even without a triple axel. Russian man have a very big potential. And there are prospects for the Games, especially with the new system. I like Kolyada, Lazukin, Kovtun. But in America I hardly like any of the juniors. Nathan Chen – more or less.
More or less? He is a World champion, six quads in the free program!
– Nathan has been training with me since he was 10 years old – drove to me in a car from Utah, slept in it. At some point, I came to his mother and said that it was no longer possible to continue like that, it was necessary to move. They moved, rented a small room and lived in it. And at that time he had already learned everything, but now he is skating himself – he entered Yale University. I coach him by Skype.
Did he ask your opinion entering the university?
– Family decided so. The rules are simple: an athlete has come – it means we work, he hasn’t come – we don’t work.
As for Nathan, he is an exception – more often in America young athletes don’t come to me. In this country, they are very fond of their coaches, because they praise and support. They scare skaters with me (laughs). Later, when they are 18–19 years old, they come to me – “help”, but what can I do? I spread my hands “What are you doing, bunny, where have you been before?”, “Where did you learn this?”. For them I’m mean and I’m not mean, I just tell the truth: I call white white, and black black.
Still, there are those who come to me and say: “I want to win the Olympics, do with me whatever is needed.” This is different conversation.
So a conflict is still needed?
– It’s not necessary to hate, but the conflict between an athlete and a coach is permanent. But when an athlete starts arguing with me, I often remind him: “What did you say to me when you came? So go and do that.”
by Veronika Sovetova for tass.ru