Rafael Arutyunyan: “Today, a 15-year-old figure skater legally performing in senior competitions doesn’t bear any responsibility even in case of violation of existing rules. There’s no logic.”
Interview with Rafael Arutyunyan about Nathan Chen, future work and the scandal surrounding Kamila Valieva.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 11th February 2022 by Boris Khodorovskii
In Beijing, your athlete showed the best skates of the season. How did you manage to bring Chen in optimal shape to the main competitions of the four years?
Rafael Arutyunyan: In the current Olympic cycle, Nathan dominated, winning three World Championships. He got the experience necessary for the Olympic victory. We just needed to calculate everything correctly, and we did it.
Before the free program, were there no thoughts to simplify the content a little?
Rafael Arutyunyan: We didn’t even think about it! Why, if everything has already been tested many times? We didn’t put the quadruple loop, but why is it needed? At the beginning of the season, Nathan jumped it so that others would think: the guy wants to complicate his program even more. We just wanted to learn another quadruple jump and even showed it to the public. Technically, Chen is the strongest in the world.
During the season, you returned to last year’s programs. However, it was said that figure skating fans might still see Chen performing the program that delighted Tatiana Tarasova so much, to the music of Mozart.
Rafael Arutyunyan: I offered Nathan to perform it at the gala in Beijing. It would have been a good present for the fans.
Do you know about short and long-term plans of the new Olympic champion?
Rafael Arutyunyan: When we talked about this before the Olympics, Nathan answered: “I will win in Beijing, then I will decide.” Perhaps, having fulfilled his dream, he will not continue his sports career. Today I cannot answer this question.
At the Olympics in Pyeongchang, your athlete decided to complicate the short program himself and lost. These four years, was he tormented by the thought that he acted in a youthful way thoughtlessly?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I do not know. After all, Nathan does not like to bring such things up for discussion. In Pyeongchang, even I was shocked by what Chen did. This decision was made at their family council. When I asked him if he was sure of his decision, I heard a positive answer. Only it sounded kind of doomed. And when Nathan failed the lutz during the program, then replaced the flip with a toe loop, everything became clear. At the Olympic Games, you can’t change anything spontaneously, you need to do what you can do one hundred percent sure.
Was the decision to participate in the team event only in the short program taken in advance, or did the desire to change it appear after the US team won the first two disciplines?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I categorically insisted that Nathan only skate the short program, and then had time to recover before the individual competitions. We went to Beijing not just for some kind of medal, but for a gold medal in individual competitions.
Why didn’t your skater Mariah Bell, who beat Karen Chen at the US Nationals, compete in the team event?
Rafael Arutyunyan: A special committee of the federation was engaged in the selection for the Olympic team. I don’t even know how many people and who exactly was included. Not to mention how they vote. To be honest, I would not even argue this the decision made in favour of Karen Chen. She and Bell are figure skaters of the same level. Of course, my student is closer to me, but in principle, nothing would have changed in terms of rivalry with the Russian team.
Did the leaders of the American federation get to you for your statements in support of Ilia Malinin, who became the silver medalist of the US Nationals with unique content and was not included in the national team?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I’ll answer with an old parable. When the emperor of one of the countries came to hermit monks, they boldly told him the most impartial things. The emperor was surprised, and then he realized that there was nothing to take away from the monks. Functionaries are well aware that I do not need anything from them, and there is nothing to take away from me. I can work, I can enjoy life in California. It is the leaders of the federation not me who depend on which of my students will bring victories and medals to the United States.
Are you planning to work with any of the American stars, an international team or Russian skaters for the next Olympic cycle?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Most likely, I won’t have such work as was with Chen. I am afraid to shoulder again such a burden and such responsibility for four years. I don’t envy those who will undertake to prepare the Olympic champions of Milan! I will probably consult. Even with the guys I am leading now, I will seriously talk about full-fledged cooperation in the near future.
American skaters speak very politely about the situation with Kamila Valieva. Did they receive any instructions?
Rafael Arutyunyan: In this regard, we have a very competent leadership of the federation. Even before leaving for Beijing, the skaters were told: “Everything that we cannot influence should be thrown aside. We concentrate only on our performances. That’s what we comment on.” I like this approach too. Scandals and intrigues are not in our department. I am always on the side of the athletes, and when it comes to a 15-year-old girl, you should not make her the culprit of all the problems in figure skating.
Do you see the connection between the scandal that has arisen right now and the decision of the ISU Council to submit to the congress the issue of raising the age minimum?
Rafael Arutyunyan: This is a very interesting question. Today, a 15-year-old figure skater legally performing in senior competitions does not bear any responsibility even in case of violation of existing rules. In general, it is not clear why the transitional age is defined precisely at 15 years, and not at 15 years and three months. There must be some logic in determining the transitional age. Is it really about allowing athletes who are not subject to the jurisdiction of the ISU to compete? I am convinced that there must be some logic here. But still there’s no logic.
How does the American coach celebrate the Olympic triumph of his athlete?
Rafael Arutyunyan: There are no conditions for this in Beijing. We are sitting in a “bubble” from which we can only move to the competition site. I visited the awards ceremony, filmed it on video, was happy for Nathan, who will now find it much easier to live and fulfill his further dreams. I will come home and celebrate everything with my loved ones!