A lesson for life
EV: Have you ever regretted that you stopped working with Mao Asada?
AR: I still do. Last time I worked with her was in the end of December 2007: first at the Grand Prix Final, in Turin, where she placed second, having won the free, then at Nationals in Japan. After that, I went to the U.S. We agreed that Mao would come to me on January 14th. We had the preparation to the Worlds in Gotenburg all planned out, but she didn't come in time. She asked by phone if I could come to her. I couldn't, because I worked with Jeffrey Buttle. But I sent my assistant to Japan. Ad told Mao that I would still wait for her in Lake Arrowhead.
The thing is, Mao never could properly train in Japan: too many distractions, like any star would have. Mao didn't like that, she would close off, and it transferred onto the ice… It ended when I told her ultimately that either she comes back, or we don't work together anymore.
It wasn't until much later that I found out Mao's mother was diagnosed with cancer at that time. Her family kept it secret, and they didn't tell me anything. Of course I would find a possibility to go to Japan if I had known. Or at least, I wouldn't make such an ultimatum.
It had taught me a lesson. A coach never should make a decision without full knowledge of the situation. Asada didn't leave me, I made her quit, even though she didn't want to until the very last moment. Even at the World championships my name was in her protocol up until the beginning of the free program. Mao must have thought I would come to Gothenburg with Jeffrey Buttle and will be by the boards when she skates. And I didn't come to Sweden at all.
AR: Because I realized I would have to be by the boards and thus continue my relationship with Asada. So I didn't go at all, out of principle. Like a fool. I don't think there was any such case in the history of figure skating: two of the coach's students become World champions, and he isn't even at the rink.