Rafael Arutyunyan: “Physiologically 17 or 18 years old is a small difference, but legally it’s huge. Again, the ISU functionaries left a loophole that allows to commit illegal acts against children when adults will go unpunished.”
Interview with Rafael Arutyunyan about the results if the ISU Congress.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 16th June by Boris Khodorovskii
Rafael Arutyunyan, coach of Olympic Champion Nathan Chen was one of the most ardent supporters of raising the age minimum for moving from junior to senior level. A few years ago, Arutyunyan found a figurative comparison, speaking about young Olympic champions who immediately end their careers, the coach said that he prefers to drink coffee from porcelain cups rather than from disposable cups. This phrase caused a strong reaction in the community of Russian figure skating fans, splitting it approximately in half. After the end of the ISU Congress, we spoke with Rafael Arutyunyan about its results.
After the decision to raise the age of moving from juniors to seniors has been made, have you already prepared the “porcelain cups”?
Rafael Arutyunyan: You’re being ironic. But in recent days, they recall Liza Tuktamysheva quite often. Like, even at 25 you can continue to perform and even master new elements. Of course, the decision made will affect the development of figure skating in Russia. How exactly, the coming seasons will show. What happened was inevitable to happen.
At the last ISU congress, this issue was not even brought up for consideration, and after the case of Kamila Valieva it got almost unanimous approval…
Rafael Arutyunyan: I agree with this statement, but still this 17-years were spin out of thin air. Like the previous 15, and before that 14. How will functionaries act when some crazy motivated mother, no matter from what country, says: “I forced my daughter to use steroids to achieve results! We invested so much in her that wanted to get a return. And she got caught on doping.” Of course, the girl will be asked why she obeyed. And the girl will answer that she had no other choice. If she had left the family, the guardianship authorities would have immediately become interested. Under the age of 18, young athletes simply cannot be held legally responsible. From the physiology point of view, 17 or 18 years old is a small difference, but legally it is huge. Again, the ISU functionaries left a loophole that allows to commit illegal acts against children when adults will go unpunished.
Is there a way out of this vicious circle?
Rafael Arutyunyan: It’s just time to learn to tell the truth. This question was raised for the first time ten years ago, but only now there has been some progress. And talks that these reforms will kill Russian figure skating are baseless. Russian figure skating has such potential that they will always find a way to adapt to any rules. Undoubtedly, the reforms will primarily affect the functionaries. To a lesser extent – coaches.
Have the echoes of the scandal connected with the accusations made by Elizaveta Nugumanova against her coach Evgeni Rukavitsin reached America?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Such scandals are not uncommon in America. In the structure of the national federation, there are even special units that deal with such situations. It seems to me that a coach and an athlete should be attentive to each other and listen to each other.
How do you manage to convince skaters to control their weight in a country where even mentioning extra pounds can be a reason for litigation?
Rafael Arutyunyan: We have a taboo on the word “overweight”. We use the term “condition”. And skaters are well aware that if their condition does not meet the requirements, then you can even get serious injuries during training. And you can just forget about worthy results. If you constantly tell an athlete, and especially female athlete, that they are fat, the extra pounds will not go away. You can recommend contacting nutritionists. The task of a coach is to help an athlete achieve goals that they have set for themselves. And for this you need to choose the right means.
Is it really possible for a figure skater in the USA to accuse a coach through the media of persuading his colleagues not to take her into their groups?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I can’t recall such a case, but America has its own specifics. The main plus of the American system is a huge choice. Here, next to one ice rink, there are several more. They can built an arena specially for good coaches. And there are a lot of rich people who are ready to do it. In the statements of Nugumanova, the thing that really struck me was her words that her coach was persuading colleagues not to take her. In America, everything is simple: if an athlete wants to move to another specialist, there is only one ethical point. You should call the previous coach and find out if the potential newcomer paid off with him. In Russia, where the state makes a huge contribution to the training of figure skaters, everything is much more complicated. You need to apply, approve the transition at a meeting of the federation, and even meet certain deadlines. It’s hard for me to imagine that someone called the owner of the rink and said: “Don’t hire Arutyunyan!” On the contrary, they will take him along with all the athletes.
Do you miss Nathan Chen’s workouts?
Rafael Arutyunyan: After the Olympics, Chen went about his business. Traveled with a tour of the country, published a book. Of course, I miss Nathan, but we have a very simple relationship. Everyone has their own life and their own business, but Chen knows that he can always ask for help if he needs it. For now he hasn’t asked.
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