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In January 2008 Mao Asada suddenly split from coach Rafael Arutunian after 16 months of working together. It was a move made without warning or explanation, and left a great many in the skating community scratching their heads over the reason behind the decision.

The Armenian had taught Mao and sister Mai at their training base in Lake Arrowhead, California, since the summer of 2006. Working with Arutunian, Mao had earned the silver medal at the 2007 worlds in Tokyo, narrowly missing out on the gold to compatriot Miki Ando.

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