Rafael Arutyunyan: “Such ambitious athletes as Nathan Chen, Evgeni Plushenko in the old days, Sasha Trusova will always try to do something that the whole world considers impossible.”
Interview with Rafael Arutyunyan. About Nathan Chan’s performance at the USA Nationals, plans for the further development, the possible cancellation of the World Championships in Stockholm and difficulty limit in men’s single skating that hasn’t been reached yet.
source: by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for russian.rt.com dd. 19th January 2021
After the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, where Nathan failed the short program, losing all chances for a medal, you said that performing a quadruple lutz and quadruple flip in a short program is akin to suicide. At the recent US Nationals, Nathan Chen performed both jumps, moreover he jumped flip in a combination in the second half of the program, and got and absolutely phenomenal score – 113.92 points.
Rafael Arutyunyan: It was one of our tasks for this championships. It’s really difficult to do both lutz and flip, but we started preparing for this even before the Olympics. Therefore, in fact, Nathan decided on this content in Pyeongchang. From my coaching point of view, this, of course, was a mistake.
On the one hand, I understand perfectly well that such ambitious athletes as Chen, Evgeni Plushenko in the old days or Sasha Trusova in the present, will always try to be ahead of their time, to do something that the whole world considers impossible.
On the other hand, Olympics are not the place for such experiments. Well, now I can say that it took three years for us to put these two jumps into the program confidently. Although this, of course, is not the limit of my coaching dreams.
And what is the limit?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I will not answer, sorry. I do not want to say anything on this topic ahead of time.
Are you so superstitious that you are afraid to jinx it?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Sure, I’m superstitious, of course. For me, any digital combinations that appear on the clock or on the door of my hotel room are signs, and I have made sure many times that there are really connections between the numbers and some events.
If we talk about our work in general, we have a certain strategy and tactics that I do not like to talk about. Sometimes even Nathan himself does not know why I try certain things in training and what exactly I am preparing him for.
That is, you are preparing him for something even more extraordinary?
Rafael Arutyunyan: First of all, I am preparing him for what would allow him to go even further. In sports, everything is very simple: do you want to be the first? Go forward!
Which of the technical tasks that have not yet been realized in men’s single skating seems to you the most realistic?
Rafael Arutyunyan: There are, of course, options if you start thinking in this direction. For example, move the lutz and flip to the second half of the program, and put at the beginning …
Rafael Arutyunyan: No, move simpler quadruple jumps there. Axel, like a quadruple loop and toe loop with five rotations, is a completely different level of complexity. It sounds fantastic, but all the jumps I have named can be done. It’s just very traumatic.
Is it possible to prepare an athlete’s body in such a way as to minimize the risk of injury?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Not an easy task. For example, in gymnastics at one time there was a very sharp progress due to the fact that foam rubber pits were invented, which made it possible to learn complex elements in a completely safe mode. In figure skating, in terms of safety, nothing like this has been invented yet.
The problem is not that you cannot try to jump any of the listed jumps, but that you can have a hard fall from them. The blade is very thin, stands on a slippery basis, if it happens that you underrotate a quarter, the leg will turn up, the ankles and knees will immediately suffer. That is, one careless movement – and the athlete fell out of the work process for two months.
At the start of this season, you said, “It’s a myth that Chen is the strongest.” Do you still think so?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I don’t think about it at all, to be honest. We’re just doing our job. We are trying to work out a certain model of the program, trying different options. At the end of October at the Skate America, as you remember, Nathan performed the free program twice – in individual and team events, and both times had a different jumping content.
Now we have found a certain optimal variant with five quads, and although not everything worked out at the Nationals, it is clear that it will be quite difficult to compete with Chen. However, he has not reached the desired condition yet. Speaking of performances in Las Vegas, I’m happy with the way the short program was skated, but I can’t say the same about the free.
Do you keep in mind the possibility that the World Championships in Stockholm could be canceled?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Regardless of what the International Skating Union decides on this issue, all our trainings are built in such a way as to be in optimal shape by the end of March.
What if ISU cancels the competitions?
Rafael Arutyunyan: It won’t change our working intentions in any way. Of course, I would prefer to find out about the cancellation as late as possible. Still, morally it is very difficult for an athlete to continue full-fledged training, knowing that he will be deprived of the main competitions. It is already difficult to train now. But I am absolutely happy with Nathan’s attitude to the process.
He does not go anywhere, he is constantly in California, does not miss classes and performs all my tasks with utmost conscientiousness.
Not even the October fires disrupted work when Chen had to evacuate from his own house?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Fires are quite common in our country. Where my family lives now, they are rare, since the proximity of the ocean gives high humidity, but if you go in the direction of the skating rink where Chen lives and further inland, it often flares up there. The system of compulsory evacuations is a kind of preventive and long-established measure, in case the fire spreads across the highway to residential areas. So Nathan got into one of these evacuations. But what to do? Such a country. But now we have +20 °C and even beaches are not closed.
But do you have to follow the mask regime?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Only at the rink and in the stores. Everything is very tough there in terms of the safety measures taken.
Will you look for some other opportunity to compete at the end of March if the World Championships is canceled?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Of course. Since autumn, we have been constantly organizing competitions at our skating rink so that athletes have the opportunity to do run-throughs of their programs in conditions as close as possible to competitive ones. It is clear that this is not the same adrenaline rush. Even in Las Vegas, where plastic figures were sitting at the stands, it wasn’t the same. But there’s nothing you can do about it. We must use the opportunities that we have.
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