Figure Skating | ICE TIME

Rafael Arutunian says he never felt Yuzuru Hanyu was unbeatable

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

In the days following the world championships it is always interesting to hear the various takeaways that those in the skating community have. One of note came from Rafael Arutunian, the coach of world champion Nathan Chen.

Arutunian was interviewed by the Russian website after his skater won the world crown for the second straight year. His comments were translated into English and posted on the skating website and provide some insight into his thoughts.

The 61-year-old coach was asked about Chen’s victory over Hanyu in Saitama and the aura that surrounds the two-time Olympic champion.

“Actually, I’m a big fan of Hanyu. I even have his autograph, which I took as a fan,” Arutunian told the website. “It was at some competition where Nathan won for the first time. Yuzuru is certainly very charismatic, but I haven’t and have never had a feeling that he cannot be beaten.”

Arutunian then talked about the moments before Chen began his free skate to “Land of All.”

“By the way there was an interesting situation in Saitama, when after Hanyu’s free program and before Chen the ice was covered with toys and wasn’t cleaned for a long time.”

Arutunian was questioned about the impact a delay like that can have on the next skater.

“You need to be ready for this. But it’s not that,” Arutunian commented. “At some point I glanced at Nathan, who was warming up in the center of the ice, and saw that he was smiling at me with his eyes very eloquently. I immediately understood what he was thinking about.

“Three times at different competitions we had to skate right after Hanyu, and Nathan had beat him all three times,” Arutunian continued. “In Saitama, I also understood that we had more qualitative elements than Hanyu. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised by the final result.”

Arutunian was asked about Chen’s margin of victory over the two-time Olympic champion.

“It doesn’t matter whom he beat and on how much points,” Arutunian told “Many athletes have improved very much this season. I think Nathan and I also could have improved, but this did not happen. But he has become more educated and psychologically mature through study.”

Arutunian indicated that he believed Chen’s time at Yale had helped to make him a better skater.

“At university, Chen is studying statistics. When we met, he showed me some of his best practices and said: ‘Coach, now I understand why you forced me to do elements a certain number of times.’ “

Arutunian then reflected back on his own education.

“At the Institute of Physical Education, we studied anatomy and physiology, and the basics of training and mathematical statistics by the way,” Arutunian recalled to the website. “In America, the guys are not too educated in this regard. Therefore, I was happy that Chen began to talk differently with me, began to understand some things differently.”

Yuzu the main attraction

Following last week’s IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, the chief of the fledgling Olympic Channel talked about Hanyu’s popularity amongst its viewers, Kyodo News reported.

Yiannis Exarchos, the Olympic Channel Services executive director, said at a news conference that Hanyu is the biggest attraction of the IOC’s content provider, the Olympic Channel.

“Yuzuru Hanyu is the biggest star of the Olympic Channel, not just in Japan but everywhere,” Exarchos said. “Figure skating has an extraordinary performance. Obviously, all the content we do for Japanese athletes has a lot of traction, but I would like to single out figure skating as a very special case of increased traffic.

“We have seen Japan exploding and becoming our second country in terms of traffic after the United States and continuously growing,” Exarchos added.

“We don’t even have the rights for figure skating, but it has a huge following on the channel there, among other things based on the star quality of Yuzuru,” Exarchos commented.

IceScope stats revealing

Fuji TV’s IceScope high-tech device, which measures height, speed and distance covered on jumps, illustrated at the world championships just how superior Hanyu’s triple axel is to his competitors.

According to the stats recorded by IceScope, Hanyu posted the greatest height (70 cm) and distance (362 cm) of any male skater on the jump at the worlds. By contrast, Chen’s height (58 cm) and distance (266 cm) were far less than Hanyu’s.

Hanyu’s stats were not the only ones that were mind boggling.

It’s no secret that Kaori Sakamoto’s jumps are powerful, but the IceScope revealed a pretty amazing fact. It clocked Sakamoto’s landing speed on her double axel as the second-fastest of the entire competition — men or women — at 20.7 kph.

The only person with a higher landing speed was the Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina’s with 21.0 kph on his triple axel.

By comparison, Chen’s landing velocity on his triple axel was recorded at 17.1 kph, while Hanyu’s was 15.3 kph.

Bell addresses Lim collision

American skater Mariah Bell talked about her dustup with South Korean training partner Lim Eun-soo during practice at the worlds for the first time on her private Instagram account last week. The message was obtained and posted by on Friday.

“As I told Eun Soo in Japan, the incident at practice was very unfortunate and I meant absolutely no harm,” Bell wrote. “Our training environment is professional and supportive, and I’ve never changed locker rooms or training times or anything like that.”

Both skaters are coached by Arutunian at The Rinks-Lakewood in Southern California.

Bell, who will turn 23 this month, said that she and her family had received threats over the collision with Lim.

“The comments that my friends, family and I received on social media were hateful and disturbing and hopefully this situation raises awareness and causes people to think twice before hitting ‘tweet’ or ‘post,’ ” Bell wrote.

Bell finished ninth at the worlds, while Lim came in 10th.

Ice Time saw the entire incident as a tempest in a teapot. In the era of clickbait, there is nothing like manufacturing a scandal. While unfortunate, this wasn’t exactly a hired hitman intentionally whacking a skater on the knee.

Challenger Series dates set

The ISU announced the schedule for next season’s Challenger Series last week. The circuit will once again consist of a total of 10 events in 10 different countries.

Here is the schedule for the 2019-20 season:

Autumn Classic International (Sept. 12-14) Oakville, Canada; Lombardia Trophy (Sept. 13-15) Bergamo, Italy; U.S. International Classic (Sept. 17-22) Salt Lake City; Nepela Memorial (Sept. 19-21) Bratislava; Nebelhorn Trophy (Sept. 25-28) Oberstdorf, Germany; Finlandia Trophy (Oct. 11-13) Espoo, Finland; Ice Star (Oct. 18-20) Minsk, Belarus; Asian Open Classic (Oct. 30-Nov. 3) Taipei; Warsaw Cup (Nov. 14-17) Warsaw; Golden Spin (Dec. 4-7) Zagreb.

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