Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Aratyunian `There are athletes who always push the sport'

TAHbKA

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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Rafael Aratyunian `There are athletes who always push the sport' for rt.com

EV: When it was announced Trusova is switching teams you said the Russian athletes depend on their conditions and every step they make into another direction is considered a treason. What did you mean?
RA: You need to understand all Russian athletes, not just Trusova did now just raise themselves. They were supported with work, finances by organizations and people, hence every switch or retirement are so painful and not well taken in Russia. I think the foreign coaches don't always realize it. They think: so they have a new athlete from Russia, they can accept them and keep working just as they used to with any other skater. I spent a lot of years in the USA and am an American coach, so I understand it. I think every switch of a Russian athlete has to be negotiated and agreed upon with the previous coach, and even more so with the RFSF.

EV: I.e. you can't just break out from the previous life and walk to the new?
RA: It's impossible. It's not a situation when the athlete payed himself, picked a coach, was working at the same time with the other specialists who took part in the coaching process and then decided to change things. And did: new people for his own money. It's not a case feasible in Russia. A lot of things still go by the way it was in the USSR. When our athlete will start paying themselves for everything then they can do whatever the wish. Though it seems Tutberidze takes the departure of her pupils not as badly as she did in the past.

EV: That's questionable. One of the group choreographers gave an interview where he called Trusova's switch to Pluschenko a betrayal comparing it to being stabbed in the back. He mentioned `when person commits a treachery they no longer exist for us'
RA: I don't get it. Why haven't anyone say Trusova betrayed when she switched to Tutberidze group from her previous coach Aleksandr Volkov? I.e. all who come from the other specialists are not traitors, but they become one when they switch? It's silly. I think it's wrong. If you accept and athlete into your group thank the previous specialist. When they leave - wish them luck.

EV: Every time a Russian single lady leaves a team your name is voiced as a potential coach. Were you in any way involved with Trusova's swithc?
RA: I am always in a way involved. The athletes get in touch quite often, the Russians as well. But taking what I said before I try to get out from some of the offers - I don't want to be involved in any way. When I start working with an athlete I ask everything: how and where the kid grew up, what are his goals, how is he used to train. If I can figure how to work with a foreign pupil I can't really understand how to work with a Russian athlete and their parents. They grew up in a different conditions, where the ice time was free, there was a coaching group who were mending them from the morning till the evening, just like I was when I lived in Russia. Now with Nathan Chen we are more equal partners.

EV: But you had your period of confrontation with his family, if I recall correctly.
RA: Right. And I always understood where Nathan's mom point of view came from. She invested so much in her son becoming a real skater. There is no centralized system for the skaters in the West and you have to replace it with something. And it does. In Nathan's case - his mom, in Michelle Kwan's case - her dad etc. Hence I always tried to be very respectful for Chen's mom point of view, even if she made some steps I, as a coach, did not like. When the time came Chen's mom said `You did for him what no one else could'.

EV: I.e. it's all about the coach's patience?
RA: You could say that. I overcame some things and now the adult guy is listening to me, catches every word and follows all the demands. It's not a blind compliance, but a different level of mutual respect.

EV: Was Chen able to figure the time off in Yale?
RA: Yes. A couple of days ago he took the last exam and said `That's it, am done with the studies, now I can focus on the work'. He is back to California, rented a flat and began the practices. I'm now trying to find a separate ice for us once the rink is open. We have very decent conditions as it is: just 5-6 people on the ice. But sometimes we want to be able to work alone, as they say in the USA `face to face'. I want to do something really good and make Chen an elite skater.

EV: Sounds interesting when talking about a person who won every possible competition except for the Olympics.
RA: I understand your irony, but there are things you can perfect, develop in other aspects. Not long I had a conversation with Nathan where I explained what I dislike in his skating.

EV: What was his reaction?
RA: He said `So do I'. I.e. we have a lot to work on. Attend some dancing classes, try new programmes, come up with a new element, increase the difficulty levels. We watched Nathan's two last skates at the Worlds and decided the second was weaker than then first. Though indeed he won.

EV: Back to Trusova, since in her quest for the difficulty she reminds me a lot of your pupil. After her switch to Pluschenko several specialists said despite her being able to land 4 different quads she has a lot of weaknesses: the gliding, the spins...
RA: Remind me, where did she place in the GPF?
EV: 3rd
RA: So let me get it, we are saying a girl who was 3rd in the GPF suddenly became an average skater once she switched coaches?

EV: You have to agree when the athlete has so many quads in their programme and they are not Nathan Chen the programme becomes a skate from one jump to the next. You said yourself several times when there are so many jumps integrated there isn't time left for anything else.
RA: True, but let us discuss: you decide on a certain scale of marks and you pay for it. Your athlete followed all your demands, became 3rd and now we suddenly say they skate wrong? So change the system. But I don't get it how can you criticize the athlete for following the rules they accepted.

EV: If you were the current Trusova coach would you think how to keep her 5 quads in the LP or would you try to convince the skater it's in her own interest to skate a less packed programme?
RA: The thing is even is Sasha leaves just 3 quads in her programme - it's a lot for a girl, especially when you know the girls will jump less with the age. I am 100% sure keeping such an amount of quads will be really tough for Sasha. Hence she has to work on the gliding, the technique, the spins, and even the jumping technique, even though she can jump great. When you don't work on it every day these abilities disappear. Take Nathan, who can land all the quads except for the axel, but he works on them every day.

EV: When Trusova became 3rd in the GPF after winning both of her GPs and then made it to to main competitions after the nationals a mom of one of Tutberidze's skaters told me `Sasha broke a huge mental barrier and so did her coaches thanks to her. She is the first kid who insisted on the quad just because she really wanted to. The rest were not allowed to attempt the quads for quite a while because the coaches were afraid of the injuries. Trusova, on the other hand started doing the quads as a kid and she was the one the others followed'.
RA: That motivation had a role. I don't know whether Sasha was so motivated her self or her parents had a part, but she wanted to land 5 quads in the programme and she did. Nathan did the same at the time - I want it and I will! Well, mom wanted the same and while I tried to prevent the unneeded risk taking I understood the process is the way it is and there is nothing can be done. You have to be able to do the calculations though. No one cancelled the thinking in our sports.
If it wasn't for Trusova and Nathan at the time were more professional as athletes they would probably agree in some situations you have to do the calculating: two jumps today, 3 jumps tomorrow and so on. But they are supermotivated and they push the sport without looking back and there is nothing you can do about. As a coach you have to stand near and help as much as you can.

EV: Will Trusova's technique allow her to develop more in jumping?
RA: Her technique is not bad. Not superb, but Sasha's jumps are quite allright. It's clear that working with her is possible, she is very demanding, motivated and wants to jump a lot. It's a great thing for a coach to work with.

EV: As a professional athlete myself I understand another thing: if Khrustalny rink girls land 50 jumps in 40 minutes of the official practices it means they land many more in the usual practice. Their muscles memory is more developed than those who don't jump so much. In these cases changing the athlete's technique when they grow up, fixing some technical mistakes becomes a really tough task.
RA: I agree. Some statistics: 100 jumps in one practice is 200 jumps a day, 1200 jumps a week, around 5000 a month and around 50K if not more a year. All these girls are practicing in that regime for 5-6 years. And then such skater switches to you and you start working with her and hear from every corner `duuh, she's been working with you for half a year and nothing have changed'.
Guys, in half a year you can, let's say, put a basic colour to paint on later. Hence when I say I need two years to start seeing changes in my athlete there is a reason for that number: it takes 2 years to create a new muscle memory. Only then you can start talking about the new technique and consistency.

EV: So it's quite heroic of Orser working with Medvedeva.
RA: Of course. It was a heroic act when he agreed coaching her. I think Orser is the only one who could afford it.

EV: You reckon if he understood all the risks we are talking about now he would have declined?
RA: No idea.

EV: How does your work going on with the *********?
RA: We are not quarantining, hence Chen came back from Dallas to LA. The flight back costs just 50$ and that's for 3 hours flight. We are practicing in a park or on a beach, which is also allowed, do two practices a day. A flexibility in the morning, then working out, the strength and special preparations. Nathan is jumping and I watch it from the side and correct him. We work in the same manner with Mariah Bell. My other pupils work with my wife Vera and with Nadezhda Kanaeva.

EV: I heard many times that landing a lot of jumps on a hard surface that is not the ice is quite dangerous for the legs.
RA: Right. Even the poll jumpers, as far as I know only jump about twice a week and work on the muscles the rest of the time. When Nathan was injured two years before the Olympics it took a while till he was allowed to go on the ice even after recovering. We spent a lot of time working on his physical strength, becoming stronger before jumping and when all that work was done Chen quite easily learned the 4lz and 4flip. Now we are being careful with it and only jump them when am present in the practice, under the strict control. The rest of the days Nathan is working out and working on his muscles.

EV: Do you have any time table for returning to the ice?
RA: It's planned opening the rinks for the professional athletes and allow 3-4 people on the ice. The current measures seem a bit over the top - figure skating is not a hockey, there is no contact, especially when you watch it. The public skating is more complicated: even if it will be back it'll take a while.

EV: Are you worried about the mental state of your pupils because of the *********?
RA: No, though the unknown is pressuring a big. The state when you don't need to go anywhere and don't need to do anything sucks in and slows down both the coach and the athlete. On the other hand only with all these things I understood how tired I was after 45 years of work. All the time Nathan was doing his uni exams I was lying home and thinking: apparently it's so nice not doing anything. I never imagined it was so great!
 

Tinami Amori

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I liked his insight into how aspects of the Russian system still come from the USSR, very interesting.
We knew this for decades.... :D
Now i'd rather hear the insight how North America's sports system, espec. Figure Skating, drifted away from "highest, strongest, fastest"... how North Am kids lost "veni vidi vici" drive, well......... except for Russian, former E.German, and Asian immigrants..... :) well, i guess those who come from "collective societies" and have seen the death-toll of supposedly great socialism don't want to step on the same rake twice... :cool:

on the subject but slightly off.....interesting...
 
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VGThuy

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I’m sure people can think of many examples of Americans doing well in international sports. Even in figure skating, there may be a downturn in ladies but they’ve often managed to place in the top ten and we‘be been dominant in ice dance even with teams not consisting of Russians and Asian immigrants.
 

Tinami Amori

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I’m sure people can think of many examples of Americans doing well in international sports. Even in figure skating, there may be a downturn in ladies but they’ve often managed to place in the top ten and we‘be been dominant in ice dance even with teams not consisting of Russians and Asian immigrants.
No, both men and women doing well in FS in USA... But they are asian and russian immigrants.
  • 3 jr. men :D solely representing JGPF and 4CC and Jr. Worlds russian origin or russian decent.
  • 2 out of Sr. men - russian origin or russian decent.
  • 3 top US Sr. men - asian (Chen, Zhou, Pulk).
  • Liu, Cui, Harrell, etc - Asian girls. (liu's 1/2 is said and hinted at to be "asian-russian).
  • Brandy Tennell - not an immigrant, or asian or russian..... But she is obviously raised with very old and less and less popular andgo-saxon work ethics...
  • Dance Sr. and Jr. 60% of all teams: either in full or half are Russian or Asian born or of decent.
  • who are the top coaches in USA with medal count in Oly and Worlds? Rafael, Marina, Igor (with their hidden Soviet Methods......:D. Etc...
 

VGThuy

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That’s very recent though. What about other sports that aren’t dominated by those of Russian-descent and Asian immigrants? If you want to make a comment about American society, you can’t just use a unique microcosm of figure skating that has had ties to Russia and Russian emigrants. The rise of Asian-Americans is clearly also a generational thing inspired by pioneers of Yamaguchi and Kwan (in their own words). Ashley Wagner is also a world medalist and Mariah Bell won medals in the GP. Gracie Gold nearly won Worlds won by Medvedeva with Frank Carroll. Also money is a huge thing in figure skating whereas other sports may not have that hinderance or at least they have mechanisms to be more successful.
 

Tinami Amori

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That’s very recent though. What about other sports that aren’t dominated by those of Russian-descent and Asian immigrants? If you want to make a comment about American society, you can’t just use a unique microcosm of figure skating that has had ties to Russia and Russian emigrants. The rise of Asian-Americans is clearly also a generational thing inspired by pioneers of Yamaguchi and Kwan (in their own words). Ashley Wagner is also a world medalist and Mariah Bell won medals in the GP. Gracie Gold nearly won Worlds won by Medvedeva with Frank Carroll. Also money is a huge thing in figure skating whereas other sports may not have that hinderance or at least they have mechanisms to be more successful.
I did say "this is recent", pointed out "espc. FS, vs other sports, so here we both agree.
 

mjb52

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Sure, it's not surprising the Russian system derived from the Soviet system, what interests me is that he still sees it as a big factor in 2020, nearly three decades out. I am trying to read Svetlana Alexievich's book on the last Soviet generation (not super successfully at the moment) so it's just a topic that fascinates me. I mentioned awhile ago that I would love to see a super extended interview with coaches like Mishin and Moskvina and whomever else about this topic (it may already exist in Russian but I've never seen anything in English!). I've seen them mention things here and there but would love a real deep dive.
 
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TAHbKA

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Sure, it's not surprising the Russian system derived from the Soviet system, what interests me is that he still sees it as a big factor in 2020, nearly three decades out.
The system is not that different (and in a way except for the big cities the country is not that different. I had 1989-1990 flashbacks during Sochi Olympics all the time...): it's still state funded: i.e. the ice is free for the coach, the funding goes by the pupils to the coaches, so if last year one had nice results and the funding should come and they switch school, oh boy...; the coaches still mother the skaters (Tarasova going as far as cooking for her pupils, but generally the coaches are really involved), it's still coaches picking the kids they want to work with (though now there are groups for those less talented where parents can simply pay and have their kids enjoy the sports), for a lot of families success in sports is still the easiest way out of poverty. And then when the state funds your training it's sort of entitled to your achievement. While Rippon could decide not to meet the president the Russian athletes don't have that prerogative.
I mentioned awhile ago that I would love to see a super extended interview with coaches like Mishin and Moskvina and whomever else about this topic
Both Mishin and Moskvina are too smart and to give an interview that might sound rebellious. While they might go into deep technicalities about their sport and it's fascinating, I don't recall them saying anything well.. juicy. If anyone I'd think Arutyunian would be the most sincere source - he was there during the USSR times and he has no reason to be PC about Russia now. Shpilbandt could be interesting as well, but most of his interviews are pretty much `I will not answer this/I will not talk about that/good question, not answering' :)
 

barbarafan

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The system is not that different (and in a way except for the big cities the country is not that different. I had 1989-1990 flashbacks during Sochi Olympics all the time...): it's still state funded: i.e. the ice is free for the coach, the funding goes by the pupils to the coaches, so if last year one had nice results and the funding should come and they switch school, oh boy...; the coaches still mother the skaters (Tarasova going as far as cooking for her pupils, but generally the coaches are really involved), it's still coaches picking the kids they want to work with (though now there are groups for those less talented where parents can simply pay and have their kids enjoy the sports), for a lot of families success in sports is still the easiest way out of poverty. And then when the state funds your training it's sort of entitled to your achievement. While Rippon could decide not to meet the president the Russian athletes don't have that prerogative.

Both Mishin and Moskvina are too smart and to give an interview that might sound rebellious. While they might go into deep technicalities about their sport and it's fascinating, I don't recall them saying anything well.. juicy. If anyone I'd think Arutyunian would be the most sincere source - he was there during the USSR times and he has no reason to be PC about Russia now. Shpilbandt could be interesting as well, but most of his interviews are pretty much `I will not answer this/I will not talk about that/good question, not answering' :)
I believe he is also a US citizen now and I believe the US is like Canada whereby you do not have to give up your original citizenship to become a citizen. The fact that he did this close to retirement seems to point to the fact he will retire in the US.
 

rfisher

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I think many NA fans simply don't understand the Russian or Chinese system as they try to compare it to the USA and Canada. Figure skating is a truly elite sport in the US as it is funded by parents who can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for coaching, costumes, ice time and all the other factors that go into getting a skater to medal winning. Japan is more similar to the US than it is to Russia/China. It's super expensive just for the lower level kids who do it for fun and stop when they reach their teens. Some families work very hard to support their kid's ambition, but then it's expected that the kid will work very hard and pay back some of that expense, but most skaters come from parents who are able to afford the sport. It's pretty much the same for tennis and golf. The comparable in the US of kids using sport as a way out of poverty is basketball and football and to a lesser extent hockey. Soccer is not that popular in much of the country beyond elementary schools. You have a few like Phelps who were able to use swimming, but most kids in real poverty don't have a pool, and those in rural areas certainly don't. There is a different drive to succeed when the "sport" isn't just your fun hobby, but is a means to not being hungry and having a nice place to live. I think you even see that in Russia when the skater's family is well to do. The skater reaches an agreed upon level of success and then quits the sport to go to university and do something else because they can. Those that stay beyond their teens often don't know what else to do that will support themselves like skating (and they are very open about that). In the US, professional opportunities for skating are really slim now, unlike the shows still popular in Russia and Japan. So, I never expect any athlete to remain in the sport when they are no longer competitive for gold medals. I think they all have different motivations and needs. If they can afford to stay, good for them. If they use skating as a platform to another career, also good for them.
 

TAHbKA

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I believe he is also a US citizen now and I believe the US is like Canada whereby you do not have to give up your original citizenship to become a citizen. The fact that he did this close to retirement seems to point to the fact he will retire in the US.
Аm not sure who is the `he' in your post nor how is it related to anything I wrote, but ok
 

Alex3_skater93

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This has to be an interview from the start of the stay at home. Rafael and his skaters have been skating at great park for weeks now. Why would he still be saying he is waiting for ice?
 

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