Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Arutyunian

TAHbKA

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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Rafael Arutyunian for rt.com
EV: What did that medal cost you?
RA: The last 3 months were tough. I didn't expect it to be that hard. Though I knew getting the athlete ready to win the Olympics is not easy.

EV: Can you elucidate?
RA: You know what it is like to set yourself for the gold medal. It's the constant pressure that does not let go even during the sleep. I saw how stressed Nathan is, thus it was not always easy to communicate with him. And his surrounding: the parents, the friends, the advisors. The closer the games were the more stressed Nathan became, his reactions were more edgy.
But I decided in advance that I, as a coach, just have to endure certain things. I recalled Tarasova and Mishin who repeated that the last part of the preparations the coach has just to take things that have nothing to do with the practices. These examples really helped me when things became really bad. When we got to Beijing it became easier.

EV: A year ago it was obvious technically your pupil is ahead of everyone else, including Hanuy. Why did you need to make the SP even more complicated integrating both the 4f and the 4l?
RA: The risk was worth it.

EV: You know it now. But at the beginning of the season Chen attempted that layout in Skate America and missed both elements.
RA: Do you remember our conversation 4 years ago, when Nathan attempted both 4l and 4f in Korea without my permission? He trained it and refused to take my advice, and ended up falling from the first jump. He frantically changed the programme putting the toeloop instead of a lutz but fell from that as well, then popped the axel. In Korea we were not ready to go for the top content. But the situation have changed.

EV: And the failed SP in Las Vegas was just part of the working process?
RA: Remember we were talking about Nathan's winning series? Now I can admit: I was really afraid Chen will come to the Olympics unbeaten. It's a sin to say it loud, but guess now I can admit: when he lost in Las Vegas I was happy and secretly thanked god. It's really hard going to the Olympics with that weight on your shoulders. It's terrible.
As for the jumping experiments there is another case - Ilia Malinin who became 2nd in the US nationals but was not taken to Beijing. He is not part of the Olympic team because in some competition he was 13th in the SP. I then said that result should not be even counted because the main thing there were not the points, but the 17y.o. boy who for the first time attempted a 4lz and a 4t in the SP. In my books it was a normal process of attempting the top content. The nationals showed I was right. But Ilia was not named part of the team

EV: I'll rephrase: would it make more sense for you and Chen to keep the previous year's content so there would no risk to make an error?
RA: We didn't want just to win, but to dominate. And am thrilled that's what happened in Beijing.

EV: Dismissing the 6th quad in the LP was also part of the strategy?
RA: Yes. At the beginning of the season Nathan was landing his 4loop decently and he showed it in the skates. We did it on purpose so everyone would be stressed. And people believed.

EV: You are saying Hanuy's decision to attempt the 4A was partly because of that?
RA: Could be. When the people closest to Chen who I shall not name were trying to convince me to integrate the 4loop in the LP I said `no way!'

EV: Why?
RA: Because you can't integrate in the Olympic programme a jump that was not trained enough. Yes, you might land it. But it would not guarantee the rest of the programme would not fall apart. What good did Hanuy's attempt for an underotated 4A do when he fell from Salchow right after?

EV: As a professional was it interesting following Hanuy's practicing attempts?
RA: No. I knew even if I assume that jump will magically happen, the odds of him breaking down on some other element are high. It's not about the 4A, it's about the rest of the programme which you have to skate and skate with no errors. Jason Brown keeps proving it for many years by remaining in the top 6 while his content is quite basic. As for the axel... Should Malinin get that jump ready and not sacrify the rest of the elements of the programme - that will be a different matter.

EV: In Beijing Hanuy kept repeating he is alone - trains alone, makes decisions alone and gets himself ready for the competitions alone. He even sat in the K&C alone. I have an impression that was his major mistake. What do you think?
RA: I think the system `coach-athlete' was invented for a reason. One of my colleaugues asked me recently why is Nathan holding to me so tight.

EV: And what did you reply?
RA: That for Chen am that person who will always tell the truth no matter the titles and the achievements. Whether he likes that truth or not. When the person is alone they might lie to themselves. Even in the family it's important to have 2 parents and not one. One is very dependent on the child in some situations. So think you are right saying Hanuy made a mistake,

EV: I'm actually really sorry there was no battle between them
RA: Of course. Only these two skaters could create that battle. The out of space Hanuy and the calculating pragmatic and well prepared Chen.

EV: During the whole competition were you ever afraid Chen might not make it?
RA: No, not at all. I was a bit pressured during some of the practices, bot not much

EV: What was wrong with the practices?
RA: There were moments when Nathan felt he is not ready to fight for the gold. I would laugh at him every time `Are you kidding me? I would be the first to tell you if something went wrong, hence don't make me laugh with your silliness and go get some rest'. On the day of the LP he skated his whole LP at 8am without a single stop and clean. It made the others who were on the ice nervous. And he skated it the same way the day before. During the practice days he hardly failed anything.

EV: In order to land the clean quads at 8am what time should the skater wake up?
RA: At 5am. No later. It's not for the morning practice, but for the ideal skate at 1pm - during the competition.

EV: Your pupil said after the team SP it was not his decision to let Zhu skate the LP. Does it mean you were planning skating both programmes in the team event?
RA: No way. From the very beginning I only wanted Chen to skate the SP because the personal gold was our priority. 2 full time skates a day before the main competition is too much. I even told that to Kondratuk's coach Sokolovskaya, that skating twice might be too much for him. And I was right, as it turned out. Svetlana was trying to convince me Mark is young and he'll deal.

EV: Why didn't your other skater Mariah Bell participate the team event? After all she is the current national champion.
RA: It was not my decision but I didn't insist. What's the point fighting for a person whose input into the team event standing is not too high? I couldn't go and say my pupil will go out there and win, right? I told Bell herself `You were not given the event? It means you are not good enough'

EV: In the mixed zone you said emotionally the skaters should be skating, the coaches - coach and the judges give marks. Was there something personal involved?
RA: I often get to deal with people who are not quite professional, let's put it that way. There are people in the ISU technical committee and in the national federations and among the judges. Many times the voices of such professionals as Mishin who I respect endlessly are the last to be heard. It's wrong. How can you not listen to the people who dedicated their whole lives to figure skating?
I was also saying that it's dangerous when the coach depends on the judges. Hence I always kept my distance and never had a personal relationship with the judges or technical specialists. Any dependency makes a person weaker. No matter what you talked about - the judging or the drugs. But you dwell into that wake so fast and so hard that you lose the focus on the most important thing and become a part of the situation which leads to the dead end.

EV: I also head that medal might make those who made you leave Russia to the USA think again. Does it still hurt?
RA: In a way - yes. Frankly, I was kicked out from the country. For many years I wanted to prove the Russian figure skating lost a coach who is capable of preparing an Olympic champion. I was working quite well back then. Of course I lacked the experience I have no and the choice of athletes to work with and me, as a skater was very far from Volkov or Kovalev. Guess hence I was not needed.
Of course no one did anything mean to me. It was much easier: the salary that was not enough to support my family. When I tried working abroad I was scorned for that. The kids were growing up, there was no money and I left. And then I immediately asked myself: what was my goal moving to the USA? Just earn enough money working with anyone who would come or attempt for a result? The will to reach a real goal was my main drive in work for all these years.

EV: This season with Chen is done or will you be going to the Worlds?
RA: Frankly, I recommended Chen to retire and go back to the university. What it the point keeping skating? Win another medal and another World title? It's not serious.

EV: Agree. So you will not be hurt should you skater come to you with a present and say `Coach, am retiring'?
RA: No. Should Chen make such a decision it will be a right one.

EV: Do you have a replacement for him?
RA: No. Am not aiming for that. I want to slow down with the coaching

EV: And to die of boredom on the beach?
RA: No, why. I have lots of hobbies and interests. Also keep in mind am not young. Of course I will be doing the consulting work but the full time coaching... I don't want to. I'm not ready to keep moving all that vagon. I'm afraid to drop dead on the way. I don't know how to do a bad job, but I knew quite well what is the price of a good work. I just don't have enough power left...
 

livetoskate

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That's pretty harsh, but he said blunt things to Ashley Wagner too. And remember his remark that in Armenia, Mariah would've been considered an old maid at age 20.
"What's the point fighting for a person whose input into the team event standing is not too high? I couldn't go and say my pupil will go out there and win, right? I told Bell herself `You were not given the event? It means you are not good enough.'"
 

Wyliefan

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Raf has no tact at all, but his skaters seem to be used to that! And his "no lies" policy certainly seems to work with Nathan.

Interesting that he was so thankful that Nathan's winning streak was broken. I wish I'd known that at the time; I would have felt a lot better about it. :lol:
 

Karen-W

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My take on that part about Mariah being passed over for the TE assignment is that Raf is pretty pissed and bitter about not being asked for input or maybe even feeling somewhat unappreciated by the USFS (or at least a sizable faction with the USFS), and that he doesn't like the fact that they left Ilia off the team or Mariah out in the cold for the TE. I can sort of see where he's coming at it from. He thinks the results on the ice should override any behind the scenes politicking. And what's happened to prove his POV necessarily wrong? Also, he could be using those snubs to help fuel the competitive fire of his athletes.
 

yeslek

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My take on that part about Mariah being passed over for the TE assignment is that Raf is pretty pissed and bitter about not being asked for input or maybe even feeling somewhat unappreciated by the USFS (or at least a sizable faction with the USFS), and that he doesn't like the fact that they left Ilia off the team or Mariah out in the cold for the TE. I can sort of see where he's coming at it from. He thinks the results on the ice should override any behind the scenes politicking. And what's happened to prove his POV necessarily wrong? Also, he could be using those snubs to help fuel the competitive fire of his athletes.
I think it’s the latter. Tough honest love to fuel skaters.

Am I wrong to hope Adam starts taking on more skaters and be the face and use Raf and Brezia as his technical specialists? I believe Raf has been training Brezina to be a technical coach and that’s who works with jessica calalang.
 

hanca

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Mishin turns 81 inless than a month, and he has plenty of hobbies without retiring. Arutunian is a.spring chicken by comparison.
The fact that someone wants to keep working even at the age of 81 does not mean that everyone wants to do that. I know plenty of people who retired in their mid 60s, or at least semi-retired. Arutunian is 64, I don’t blame him for thinking that he would like to slow down. At some stage, no matter how much you love your work, you may want to try other things in your life than just working every day.
 

kwanfan1818

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The fact that someone wants to keep working even at the age of 81 does not mean that everyone wants to do that.
That "someone" is his role model/advice guy, or I.wouldn't have mentioned it. Sorry for hsve forgotten a "wink" at the end.
 

thvu

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EV: And to die of boredom on the beach?
RA: No, why. I have lots of hobbies and interests. Also keep in mind am not young. Of course I will be doing the consulting work but the full time coaching... I don't want to. I'm not ready to keep moving all that vagon. I'm afraid to drop dead on the way. I don't know how to do a bad job, but I knew quite well what is the price of a good work. I just don't have enough power left...
This spoke to me so much. I'm going to post this on my work wall somewhere.
 

sk9tingfan

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I think it’s the latter. Tough honest love to fuel skaters.

Am I wrong to hope Adam starts taking on more skaters and be the face and use Raf and Brezia as his technical specialists? I believe Raf has been training Brezina to be a technical coach and that’s who works with jessica calalang.
IMO, nothing would induce Adam to do this. he has too many irons in the fire outside of skating and has previously articulated that he doesn't want to pursue a full time coaching job. he did this for Mariah as a favor.
 

jiejie

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Wish he could have done his magic on Michal Brezina
Brezina was able to extend his career by a few years, because of Raf. Let's face it, no coach can completely overcome the effects of age and body wear-and-tear. Raf also helped Michelle Kwan's jumps in the late stages of her career, even if her hip condition didn't allow her to fully take advantage of his coaching.
(I needed to work Kwan into a thread today....)
 

sk9tingfan

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Brezina was able to extend his career by a few years, because of Raf. Let's face it, no coach can completely overcome the effects of age and body wear-and-tear.
I wish Adam would have gone to Raf in 2006-2007 instead of Morozov. Even though Adam improved his success rate at that time, i think Raf could have done better with Adam. Also, Morozov was incredibly abusive in so many ways. Then Jason Dungjen was abusive in his own way and also exhibited very poor judgment with Adam's training regimen when Adam had an ankle injury.

One wonders, what if?
 

kwanfan1818

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Brezina also has learned coaching from among the best by observation and experience. Not every potential coach has the opportunity to see firsthand how the favorite going into the Olympics is coached/managed in the lead-up, especially after the crushing disappointment of a prior Olympics.
 

jiejie

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I assume you meant 'explain' and that was an autocorrect?
No autocorrect. "Expand" as in "expand upon...." is often used in English. In this context "Explain" would also have been usable. "Elucidate" is perfectly OK as well, same as "clarify." In the English context of this interview, any of these are fine. I don't speak Russian, so not sure if there are finer gradations of meaning in that language that are more precise.

I find no awkwardness in this English translation, it's very clear. Thank you for providing it!
 

SkateFanBerlin

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I totally agree, but there are many FSUers who believe that any words other than "nicey-nice" are going to scar someone for life. :rolleyes:
Notice Raf implied Nathan was difficult in the final prep. Carroll said the same about Tim Goebbels. People with this kind of talent know what they have and are hell bent to get it. No need to feel sorrry for them.
 

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