Rafael Arutyunyan: I don’t love any of you. But I will love the one who will train well
Another interview with Rafael Arutyunyan for Russian press.
– Now I rarely see Nathan, he is studying at Yale University, so most of the time we communicate by Skype. He can do a lot, he knows how to train, but he needs to correct his actions anyway. Therefore we have to use every opportunity to meet. Since I came to the Grand Prix in Moscow with Eunsoo Lim, and he has the next Grand Prix in Europe, I offered to come and train in Russia.
Is it really possible to maintain the top level training by Skype?
– For 7-8 years of our training he have got a very solid base, there is a good reserve, so when he was offered a scholarship at the university, he couldn’t refuse. It is possible that this is the dream of his life. The university is very expensive, parents would have never been able to pay for it. Nathan decided that he will study for two years and will come to me on holidays, some of them will be just before the national championships. While he’s coping, he won the American Grand Prix and will try to win in France. He understands that he is losing in preparation, but he gains in another. In general, he has a plan to take an academic leave after two years of study, to prepare for the Olympic Games. He thinks that’s enough. It may work out, but it will be difficult.
When an athlete has nothing in his life except figure skating, it leads to emptiness after the end of his career, but if he begins to get a serious education, the results go down …
– But there is a balance, even if skaters lose something in sports, they still gain life experience. After all, they are very motivated for the result and everything that happens around passes by them. And when a person studies and trains, his horizons expand and he begins to evaluate everything differently.
But in this case, doesn’t education become a hindrance to the achievement of the main goal – the Olympic medal, which can become a ticket to another life?
– I don’t agree that medal gives a start in life. I know very many Olympic champions whom the gold medal didn’t help much in their lives. So the balance is much more important: sport plus horizons.
Many experts recalled your words about pressure on Russian skaters, given the number of Olympic champions in the past and the preparation at the expense of state funds, it is unlikely that it will disappear.
– No, I don’t think that our job is to put pressure on the skaters: “Here you are again!” Once you put someone in the team, it means that’s who you have today. There is a selection, he passed it, performs. Is there any better? No, that’s it. When you have such, then he will skate well. If for example Mikhail Kolyada doesn’t lead up your expectations, bring another!
Sometimes it seems that he lacks quite a bit…
– It doesn’t happen like this, it means that something is not enough. I saw him in my classes in the summer in America, he has mistakes in training. You see, an athlete shouldn’t make mistakes before serious competitions at all.
And how to deal with this? Does he need a tough coach?
– No, at this age you can’t scold, and the question is not in rigidity, but in organization. It is necessary to keep statistics on completed jumps, to strive for some fixed percentage. And if you have 50 to 50, why do you think that the successful 50 will be at competitions and not vice versa? After all, there will be stress, music, the audience.
Let’s better about the pleasant – about Alina Zagitova. She wins all competitions, but the still some small mistakes. Do you think it is stress, skating at the limit or just the lack of real competitors?
– Yes, it is generally hard. To go and skate as she did at the Olympics, you can do that once or twice a season, the rest of the time there will be some small mistakes. Zhenya Medvedeva skated for two seasons almost flawlessly, now we want Zagitova to skate like that for two years, then Alena Kostornaya, and so on to infinity. It doesn’t happen like this, skaters are not cars and not robots. Does Yuzuru Hanyu skate with no mistakes? The peak of the shape should be at the right time in the right place. At this level, work are always at the limit, especially since she is a leader and everyone looks at her.
There were several Japanese documentaries about Eteri Tutberidze’s trainings after the 2018 Olympics, then a Polish documentary about the way of the rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun to Olympic gold. There was an opinion that no one can be stricter to girls than Russian female coaches …
– I had an example of Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova, and the point was not in rigidity. She found the right words, knew when to say and when to keep silent. And often her silence was even stronger. This is professionalism – to find the right way to make an athlete to do what is necessary. It happens that I shout, but very rarely. Usually, I create an atmosphere for the guys so they’re motivated to work. But I have a different situation – mature athletes come to me. Although recently a 15-year-old Korean girl came and before that Japanese Marin Honda, who is now 17 years old. Usually they come in 18-19 years old and ask me to save them, but they cannot be saved.
How is it can’t be saved? But what about Elizaveta Tuktamysheva this season?
– This is a good example. Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin found the necessary keys to her!
But he is a recognized master, he often makes it clear in interviews that he is just happy to work and go to competitions. Younger and more ambitious coaches want the results.
– There are specialists who can show a direction, but there are those who work due to the fact that new young athletes constantly come to them. You can use and break them. And what if they do not bring you the fresh ones? We have to work with what we have. So you start to think what you can do and are looking for new solutions.
Valentina Chebotareva said something similar about Stanislava Konstantinova, who made her debut in senior competitions at the age of 18.
– Well, if I have a constant inflow of fresh young girls, I will use a couple of them who hasn’t broken, lived in sports for 2-3 years, then the next ten will came. But here comes the athlete, he is 22 years old, and you start to work with him and he doesn’t have this or that jump. Who will work with him? I took Ashley Wagner at the age of 22 and she became the world vice-champion. I took Adam Rippon at the age of 23 without a triple axel and he became the national champion, made it to the top ten at the Olympics. But he grew old while I was teaching him to do what he was supposed to do. You have to work as a jeweler. Brian Orser needs a year and a half to bring an athlete to the state which is necessary for work, and I need two. But the materials are different – stone, oak or diamond, which you don’t even need to touch.
But what to do if medals and victories are expected from the team members?
-In the US, no one requires it. The task of the federation is to unite people who love to skate and give them the opportunity to compete, not to grow up potential rivals for Russians, Canadians or Japanese. When I first arrived there with my mentality, I repeated: “What are you doing, let’s raise the results!” And they answered me: “No, this is not our business!” It was explained to me that to beat someone is the task of the athlete and his coach. If they notice that someone has won a medal, then he will be provided with a financial assistance from a special fund. But a skater can spend it as he wants: on a coach, choreographer or masseur.
Medvedeva grew up in the system, when at every competition she was expected to win. Brian Orser in a recent interview said that he would try to explain her: victory at all competitions isn’t necessary. Is it possible to change the mindset?
– Chen is the same – he wants to win everything, even though he grew up in America. Because of this, he had injuries. This is the philosophy of his family. Although I told him: “You have to bring yourself exactly to the important competitions and win them.” Only he did not really listen to me, but now he starts to acknowledge my rightness.
As for Evgenia, I think that such a rebuild will not happen immediately, because everything happens gradually. She can accept Orser’s philosophy only with time. When she left, attacks began, she was called a traitor. What if tomorrow Zagitova wants to leave? Will she also become a traitor? Is this a war game? In general, all the breaks up with the students are not easy. Of course, Eteri Tutberidze was like a mother to her, she helped in everything, but the person wanted to go her own way. And it seems to me that we need to allow her go that. What is she accused of? The fact that she found for herself some kind of solution, that she is more comfortable with Orser? Everyone is looking for comfort, children leave their parents and begin to live separately, people get divorced. Are they all traitors? Media plays an important role in all this, which must be careful.
There are a few coaches who have only one student. How to organize work to avoid offences?
– I deliberately took a few girls, but I am honest with them and immediately said: “I don’t love any of you. But I will love the one who will train well.” There should be no love, only respect. Why am I against parents coaching their children? Because they must love them, and you can’t love your skaters. In Russia, it often comes to drama, because coaches love their skaters as their children. When my skaters saw that I treat everyone equally, there become no tension.
Once you said that a girl of 15 years old is a different sport compared to older skaters. Are you ready to say the same about your young skaters?
– Of course. Do you have a photo of 15 year old yourself ? Take a picture now and compare – you will see two different people. This is the whole problem, the physiology has not been canceled yet, they cannot compete together. This is such a stress. When I was first asked about this, Lena Radionova and Anya Pogorila were 15 years old, and my words were taken hostilely – they say, he just had aged Wagner. And now these skaters are in Ashley’s place. Sometime Zagitova, Kostornaya, Sasha Trusova will grow up … And don’t blame me for anything, I, on the contrary, want for example Radionova to skate, and for this she must compete with Carolina Kostner and Kaetlyn Osmond. And they say to me: “We want to see jumps.” So go to see jumps! Let the 15-year-olds compete in one category, separately, let the skater be multi times champion of the world among juniors. And when she will be 18 years old she will move to seniors as a titled athlete. It was possible for Tuktamysheva to return, but not for Radionova. Do you want to lose her? You have already lost Pogorilaya, don’t you feel sorry? She has worked for so many years, and now she is knocked out only because 15 year old girls are considered women.
But there is another point of view. For example Nina Mozer spoke against raising the age for being senior, since everyone grows up differently and someone at 18 can be miniature and someone can be tall at 16.
– I will say this: if a girl after 18 years hasn’t changed, then she should be taken to the doctor, or the coach should be put in jail. Well, let them sit up to this age in juniors and then everyone can move to senior competitions. There will be more skaters, believe me.
The period from 16 to 20 years is very painful, they fight and understand that it is useless. When parts of the body change, everything moves, girls get lost in the air and life, hitting the ice. They realize that in two or three months you will not fix everything, you need the same number of years. But no one believe in them any more, because young girls skate like tanks. Give everyone a chance, and then the little girls will think how many quad jumps they will take – 3 or 10, because they will need to live to be 18 years old. They will protect the joints and backs. These girls can become real stars, not asterisks.
Well, can’t this issue be solved otherwise, for example, to put the components scores in a different way? Without reference to stability and technical score?
– No, I generally believe in the business system. Everything is simple: at the junior competitions the prize fund is $ 300, skaters skate, gain authority, and in senior competitions – from 10 to 30 thousand. Only interest works. I wonder why doctors who work in figure skating or at ISU do not shout about it? It’s already not interesting to me just to push athletes “Come on, come on,” I have already done a lot of things. I worry about the younger generation, I want them to do without nervous breakdowns and anorexia, and also to fulfill themselves. When six years ago I started talking about this for the first time, they all turned against me, and now they began to think. After all, sooner or later all, even the most technically strong girls will be in this situation.
Children, after all, have parents, they should be aware of the risk.
– They are not professionals, but motivated people who simply think: “Well the girl jumps, she did not die!” And then she can be in a wheelchair at the age of 20. And they need to be informed, so that they understand: the bones of a growing organism can withstand only a certain load.
But such didn’t happen to the top athletes in the past.
– But were there quadruple jumps? How many surgeries have been done already on the hip joint without quadruples? Every decent person should shout about it. If a specialist wants to satisfy his ambitions, what the children have do with it?
But what about the 16-year-old Rika Kihira with three triple axels for two programs? It seems that quadruples are needed not to be outsiders after the technical revolution.
– You can learn to jump, but there should be a special approach to such difficult jumps, strict accounting of weight and condition analysis. Do you know that a girl can gain a little weight, jump and get injured? Parents took her on vacation and she just had breakfast better than usual.
But isn’t the coach able to stop her?
– Someone will say, and some will not. In America, you can’t say: “You gained weight.” She can become anorexic and you will be guilty. Well, I try to work very carefully with my girls, I bring them to the gym, strengthen the joints. Time is limited and there is a choice: 28 quadruples or 3 and then restoration. If you come to the coach, listen to what he says, and he will lead you wherever you want.
by Ekaterina Bespalova for sport-express.ru