Rafael Arutyunyan: “Trusova’s injured foot prove once again that my pathetic attempts to draw attention to the need of careful treatment of young athletes didn’t lead to anything”
Rafael Arutyunyan about the reasons for his athlete’s defeat at the start of the Grand Prix series, about his plans for the Olympic season and the idea of holding a jumping duel between Russian ladies and American men at the Channel One Cup.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 11th November, 2021 by Boris Khodorovskii
At Skate America, Chen failed to win for the first time in three and a half years. How do you explain this failure?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Before going to Las Vegas, Nathan was supposed to compete in Japan, but it was canceled. We were satisfied with the option to skate only the free program at these competitions and showing the short one in gala. Only in the current realities, you need to be prepared for the fact that the first start will be right at the Grand Prix. In Las Vegas, Chen tried his crazy content with quadruple lutz and flip in the short program, as well as a loop in the free program. For the first start, this is a lot, but the athlete had such a desire, and I did not dissuade him. There is even something positive in this defeat. It’s good that this happened in Las Vegas and not in Beijing.
And the conclusions were drawn for Skate Canada.
Rafael Arutyunyan: In Vancouver, Nathan changed the content, performing a toe loop instead of a quadruple flip in the short program. It’s no secret that skaters are generally afraid to put a quad flip in a short program, where the cost of a mistake is very high, and Chen performs this jump in the second half. And he can do that! Any coach knows that there are comfortable and uncomfortable jumps for his skater. In this regard, Nathan is no different from others. He loves some jumps, some doesn’t, but at the same time he tries to perform all the quads. Although no one gives additional bonuses for this.
Why does Chen, with his incredible psychological consistency, work with a psychologist?
Rafael Arutyunyan: It only seems that Chen is an incredibly psychologically resistant skater. Nobody knows what kind of work is behind this. And this work is a long-term work.
And nobody should know …
Rafael Arutyunyan: Of course! This is the whole point. Nathan said very well at the press conference: “Everyone is convinced that I’m a robot on the ice, but I’m the same human as the rest.” We have been working together for about 12 years, and now, at the Grand-prix in Canada, Nathan was able to perform a free program when I was not at the boards. We could only exchange glances. Due to strict rules for the “bubble”, I was not allowed to appear close to the ice. I had to stand in the aisle. Thanks to the local security guards who drove away the people standing in front of me. Thanks to this, we managed to correct one of the jumps.
Does Chen plan to compete at the Four Continents, which will take place in mid-January in Tallinn?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Most likely, we will not go there. We plan to take part in three events: the Grand Prix Final, the US Nationals and the Olympics. I would not want Chen to reach his peak ahead of time. This is also one of the reasons why he did not perform well at Skate America.
One gets the impression that Russian men even start to have complexes, looking how easily Russian girls perform quadruple jumps. Chen is not afraid of comparisons with Alexandra Trusova, right?
Rafael Arutyunyan: I have a proposal to Channel One to organize jumping competitions between two teams – Russian girls and American guys. For greater competition, it is possible to make a third team from Russian men, strengthening it with European legionnaires.
But what about American girls?
Rafael Arutyunyan: In such a tournament, they simply won’t be competitive. But the jumping competition with the participation of men from North America and Russian girls will raise the ratings of TV broadcasts to unprecedented heights. Chen will definitely not have any complexes.
In interviews you have been quite critical about the young champions from Team Tutberidze. But the recent successes of Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, who have been winning more than one season, didn’t it make you change your point of view?
Rafael Arutyunyan: Just the opposite. Like many fans of figure skating, I would like to see champions throughout several Olympic cycles. Today, no one perceives Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva as active athletes. But they are still only about twenty years old! Well, and Trusova and Shcherbakova have Kamila Valieva stepping on their toes, who is spending her first senior season and has already set two world records.
Trusova’s injured feet, because of which she misses the Japanese Grand Prix, prove once again that my pathetic attempts to draw attention to the need of careful treatment of young athletes did not lead to anything. But there are already voices that skaters need to be given bonuses for their age. And it is no coincidence that today a huge number of figure skating fans are eager to see Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at the Olympics with her feminine and mature skating.
You advised Svetlana Panova when she worked with Maria Sotskova, figure skaters from Valentina Chebotareva’s group came to California for an internship. In Las Vegas, you crossed paths with Ksenia Sinitsina, who is coached by Panova. Did you give her any advice?
Rafael Arutyunyan: There was no need for that. Sinitsina’s short program, which everyone liked very much, was choreographed by my wife. She came to Moscow to visit daughter and combined business with pleasure. We try to help Russian skaters as much as we can, if they ask.
How do you assess the prospects of such skaters as Sinitsina, who do not have quadruple jumps in their arsenal, but have a lot of charm?
Rafael Arutyunyan: They cannot compete with the Tutberidze Team. This group has such figure skaters that even internal competition itself pushes them to unprecedented heights. A good team (now we are not talking about coaches, choreographers, physical training specialists, but about skaters) is the most important factor for the progress. For Ksenia, the third place in the short program in Las Vegas and the overall fifth is a great success. Not everything in this life is measured only by the Olympic gold medal. In America, we have to work with all kinds of athletes. It’s not even close to Russia where the support for high-professional sports is provided at the state level. In the United States, champions appear despite, and not thanks to.
But what about Chen?
Rafael Arutyunyan: His parents sacrificed a lot for the sake of their son’s sports career. When Nathan was ten years old, his mother brought the boy to our skating rink, leaving her husband and four children in another city. It was clear how physically and technically gifted this guy is, how great his ambitions are. He himself told his parents that it was necessary to go to this particular coach, otherwise nothing would work. In ten years! At first they came several times a year to master classes, but Nathan chose me himself. And I hope he didn’t regret it.
“I won’t say that it’s the coaches fault – the girls themselves put the cart before the horse, because of this competition” choreographer Alexei Zheleznyakov about Daria Usacheva’s injury