Rafael Arutyunyan, Nathan Chen’s Coach: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Nathan Chen, Nathan Chen coach, Rafael Arutyunyan Getty

Nathan Chen waits for his score in the kiss and cry with his coach Rafael Arutyunyan after skating in the Men's Short Program during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Nathan Chen was an 11-year-old figure skating phenom when he came to work with Coach Rafael Arutyunyan. Now, Arutyunyan is preparing Chen for his first Olympics.

A former Soviet national competitor, Arutyunyan has an impressive list of past and present students including three-time U.S. champion and Olympian Ashley Wagner, 2016 U.S. Champion Adam Rippon as well as World champions Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Mao Asada and Jeffery Buttle.

Here’s more on Arutyunyan and his career:


1. Arutyunyan Has Been Working With Chen for Seven Years

Rafael Arutyunyan, Nathan Chen coach

GettyNathan Chen waits for his scores alongside his coach Rafael Arutyunyan after competing in the Men’s Free Skate program during the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Chen’s interest in skating was first piqued when watching his older brothers play hockey. Soon after, Chen started ice skating at age 3 on a 2002 Olympic practice rink.

By the time he was 10, he was making his national debut at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He won the national novice title to become the youngest novice champion in the history of U.S. Figure Skating.

During the 2011–12 season, Chen moved up to the junior level. At the time, he was coached by Genia Chernyshova and also began traveling to Lake Arrowhead, California to work with Rafael Arutyunyan to improve his jumps. That same season, Chen relocated to California to train with Arutyunyan full-time in mid-December, according to Ice Network.


2. Arutyunyan Is Known As a ‘Jump Specialist’

Arutyunyan is a world-renowned coach, who has garnered the reputation as a jump specialist. Chen has always been known for his technical prowess and challenging jump combinations. However, Arutyunyan’s guidance has pushed him to the next level.

“Ever since I was a younger skater, I’ve been working my way to these big jumps,” he told NBC News. “Once you land a jump, you put it straight in the program. That’s the way I’ve always been doing it. Once I landed the triple Salchow, I put it in the program. First landed triple toe, straight into the program. That’s what I did with my quad suite.”


3. Arutyunyan Was Named the U.S. Figure Skating/PSA Coach of the Year

Rafael Arutyunyan, Ashley Wagner coach

GettyAshley Wagner confers with coach Rafael Arutyunyan before skating in the Ladies Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Arutyunyan was named the U.S. Figure Skating/PSA Coach of the Year for both 2015 and 2016.

He collaborates with his wife, Vera Arutyunyan, who is also a coach. He moved to Lakewood ICE in Lakewood, California on June 25, 2016 — a RINKS facility.

THE RINKS Development Program, which formed in 2009, now consists of seven local skating facilities operated by the Anaheim Ducks: four ice rinks (THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE, THE RINKS – Lakewood ICE, THE RINKS – Westminster ICE and THE RINKS –Yorba Linda ICE), as well as three inline facilities (THE RINKS – Huntington Beach Inline, THE RINKS – Irvine Inline and THE RINKS – Corona Inline).

Arutyunyan’s current students include:

Mariah Bell (2017 U.S. national bronze medalist)
Michal Březina
Vivian Le
Romain Ponsart
Adam Rippon, 2016 U.S. national champion.
Ashley Wagner, 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. national champion.


4. Arutyunyan Has Helped Chen Master His Quads

Nathan Chen, Rafael Arutyunyan

GettyNathan Chen competes in the Men’s Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Arutyunyan employs a systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to the skill of jumping on ice. He uses his skater’s height and distance to determine proper take-off velocity as it relates to timing, angle direction, and position.

Under Arutyunyan’s guidance, Chen has become known as the “quad king.” Chen became the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in one program during the 2017 U.S. figure skating championships.

His nearly flawless free skate to “The Polovtsian Dances,” began with an impressive quad lutz-triple toe combination. Chen went on to land all five quadruple jumps cleanly.

“That was an amazing performance. I’m really happy with what I did,” Chen told the Denver Post. “Component-wise, I kind of faltered a little bit. That stuff happens when you’re pushing these secondary elements to the max. It’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to working on to improve for worlds.”

With a record score of 318.47 points and a record winning margin of 55.44 points, Chen claimed gold to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years.

He landed four quads during his short program to score a U.S. record 106.39 points.
Chen, who was out five months after suffering a hip injury in 2016, has struggled with various injuries in recent years as he’s gone through growth spurts.

“These big jumps take a big toll on the body, especially a young body. So, it’s kind of risk or reward, I guess. I feel like at this level, it’s kind of necessary,” he told NBC News.

However, Chen showed his ability to overcome those obstacles at last year’s nationals with two record-setting performances.

“Life often tests us, it puts us through examinations, and Nathan gets all sorts of scrutiny from it, too,” his coach Rafael Arutyunyan, told NBC Sports. “But this young man walks out of all such pressing situations as the winner. He behaves like a real man.”

Chen defended his U.S. national title last month with a stunning performance in the men’s free skate. The 18-year-old landed five quadruple jumps to finish the competition with a dominating 315.23 score.


5. Arutyunan Also Coaches Adam Rippon

Nathan Chen, Nathan Chen coach, Adam Rippon coach

GettySilver medalist Adam Rippon of the United States, gold medalist Nathan Chen of the United States, and bronze medalist Sergei Voronov of Russia, pose after competing in the Men’s Free Skating during day two of 2017 Bridgestone Skate America.

Adam Rippon trains alongside Chen under Arutyunan’s guidance. Although both have led very different skating careers, they will each represent the United States in men’s figure skating in PyeongChang.

“I brought up this young kid starting when he was 11,” Arutyunyan told The Washington Post. “I took Adam five years ago, when he was [22], couldn’t jump at all. Now they [are] both at Olympics. . . . I’m proud of them, proud of myself and proud of my team.”

Chen will skate his short program in the team event, which gets underway Thursday while Rippon will skate the long program.

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