Rafael Arutyunyan: We live in the Stone Age of sports management
Another interview with Rafael Arutyunyan for Russian media.
At the Olympics in Pyeongchang, where Chen failed a short program, he needed to take risks and put six quads in the free program. Why did it have to be done in Milan, where Nathan was confidently leading after the first day of competitions?
– We don’t look at the competitions layouts! In any case, you need to move forward. The coach’s job is not to count points needed for the victory. You need to teach your figure skater, watch his growing up and formation.
Do your athletes feel the situation when a difficult jump is brought to automatism?
– That’s what Chen and I have. Maybe the quadruple salchow is ready on 80 percent. Problems with axel happen. All other jumps are ready on 100 percent.
Is the current generation of skaters, who have a large number of quadruple jumps in their programs, more talented than Evgeni Plushenko, Alexei Yagudin, your student Alexander Abt?
– No. Just now, from the early years, skaters have a correct technical base. This is a very interesting point. Sometimes there are news that in a group of this or that coach has appeared a phenomenal athlete. And I know that three months ago he was training with another specialist who gave him the necessary basis! I’ve been coaching Chen for seven years and I’ve been teaching him every element.
Is it a great luck to find a talented student?
– Actually in America, most skaters find me. In the case of Chen, I even offered his first coach co-operation, but she did not like that Nathan listened to me more. Although it was necessary to stay in the team and today she would have shared the joy of winning at the World Championships.
In Russia, most coaches are dictators, and in America – partners of figure skaters …
– The partnership between coach and athlete is much more complicated. And the lapsus that happened to Chen at the Olympics is a consequence of such a relationships. In fact, he spontaneously decided to do in the short program those elements that led to mistakes. I had a completely different plan, but Nathan insisted on his and flew to the 17th place in the short program. I gave the opportunity to make a mistake at the main competition of the season, but now Chen listens carefully to my recommendations.
Today you are very in demand as a coach in America……
– Not only in America. Skaters from South Korea came to me, who has spent three months in California.
Were there cases when you refused those who dreamed of achieving champion regalia under your guidance?
– Of course, there were. Now I will begin to refuse even more people. I foresee that many will ask. At the same time I teach them, and they go home and start competing with my skaters. It’s Alexei Nikolayevich Mishin who coached competitors of his skaters and then fought with them. At the same time he often coached more talented guys. And one word of Alexei Nikolayevich during the practice costs two thousand words of other specialists. I want to reach the level when skaters will sign contracts with me. Unfortunately, еhat’s not the way it works in our sport. People come, get something and leave at any time without explaining the reason. We live in the Stone Age of sports management.
Some Russian specialists working in America build relations with skaters on a contract basis …
– I do not have such authority yet. Although I can not say that the skaters often left me. More often I left them.
Maria Sotskova came to you for an internship. Was the option of constant training in your group considered?
– It will be hard to change something for Maria now, although she was satisfied with our cooperation. Then she trained with Svetlana Panova, my wife and I are friends with this coach. I have never allowed myself to steal my friends’ skaters. Back in Moscow, when Russian figure skaters were asking me, I refused them in such cases.
Have you ever regretted the decision to move from Moscow to California?
– Never. In Moscow, I earned $ 200 in the ruble equivalent, and I had to spend a thousand to live. I moved to America solely because of selfish interests and immediately began to earn decent money.
In Russia, after the Olympics, figure skaters and coaches were awarded from the federal and local budgets. How does the US encourage champions?
– There such bonuses are not needed. Athletes and coaches in the US are self-sufficient people and can monetize their victories through performances in shows, advertising contracts and sponsorship. I’m paid $ 40 for 20 minutes of classes. Now, perhaps, I will raise it to 50.
There are also test skates in America, but the opinion of experts is not for the public discussion, it addressed only to athletes and coaches……
– In Russia, after the test skates, everyone has a lot of comments to the skaters and coaches. In America everyone likes everything. Once I even had to say: “Guys, stop!” For American experts, it was a shock when I told the World silver medalist the whole truth about his program and his performance. I just told my students “Do you want to listen to praises or skate well?” They all take it normally.
Related topics: interview, Nathan Chen, Rafael Arutyunyan
It seems that figure skating in Russia is an industry while in America it is a luxury (and in Australia it’s a rarity!).