Chen’s Coaching Drama and More Pairs Updates


Moore-Towers & Marinaro withdraw from their second event, Chen and Arutunian possibly not done after all, Bazarova & Deputat split.

Yesterday was an eventful news day in the world of figure skating, much more so than is usual as the Grand Prix winds down. Some news, such as a high-profile last minute withdrawal, was expected. Other news was less so, even if none of the three stories that hit the newswaves yesterday were unanticipated. While coaching changes do sometimes happen at this point in the fall, high-profile team breakups are less common, yet one was announced.

Moore-Towers & Marinaro Out of NHK Trophy

Last month, Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro pulled out of their first Grand Prix event. They did not say why, but it is generally assumed she is still dealing with a concussion she got earlier in the year. Sadly, it seems her symptoms did not abate in time for them to make their second event. Yesterday the roster for next week’s NHK Trophy crossed them off.

They have exactly two months until the Canadian National Championships. They can hope that Moore-Towers finally recovers enough to compete by then. But the loss of training time and competitive mileage is a bad one for a pair trying to break into their country’s top three. Their best shot at making it to the Four Continents and/or World Championships would be to beat her former partner Dylan Moscovitch and his new partner Lubov Iliuscheckina. But they now have a Grand Prix medal on their resume and are only getting better. If Moore-Towers & Marinaro can’t unseat them this year, the odds of doing so to make the Olympics next year become long.

So their not wanting to miss this event unless they had to is understandable. Still, it is unfortunate they waited this long to withdraw, since it makes a replacement unlikely. It also makes the pairs field in Japan the weakest one of the series.

Chen’s Coaching Situation Not So Clear Cut

Sometime last summer Nathan Chen left his previous coach, Rafael Arutunian, for Marina Zueva. We did not hear about it from either of the parties themselves, but first from new training mate Patrick Chan, and later from coaching legend Tatiana Tarasova. After the competition, in an interview with Russian sports reporter Andrey Simonenko, Arutunian discussed the matter. At the Trophée de France, where Chen was competing against Arutunian’s other top male student Adam Rippon, confused reporters were asking him questions about it. He had no real answer to give them, because Chen had not declared anything. He even called him and said they would talk in Paris.

All together Arutunian made it clear he was not happy with Chen. He called him a child, said the two of them had never quite clicked, and practically accused Zueva of sweet-talking him away from him. (He is not the first person to accuse Zueva of this kind of behavior.) Earlier in the interview, he also said he disapproved of younger skaters training harder quadruples the way Chen’s been doing. Chen himself he criticized for working on them at the expense of everything else. Simonenko ended the interview by asking if he’d take him back if Chen asked, to which Arutunian said it would depend how Chen asked.

When the interview was published yesterday, Simonenko also reported that later, Chen did indeed ask Arutunian to at least work with him until his second event in Japan next week. It seems he has second thoughts after his quads weren’t enough to compensate for his mistakes and get him onto the podium in Paris. This drama clearly isn’t over yet. The next chapter should unfold next week.

Vera Bazarova Leaves Partner, Possibly Retiring

But for one Russian pair, and possibly for one Russian two-time Olympian, the story is over. Two and a half years ago, when the Olympic season was followed by a flurry of Russian partner switching, Vera Bazarova & Andrei Deputat were considered one of the most promising new teams to come out of it. She was the younger half of a team that had come in sixth in Sochi. He was half of a team that had shown promise in juniors before faltering, someone who still had potential to do better with a partner change.

But they never quite lived up to that promise, having disappointing skates and not making it to the bigger competitions. This season, they only got one Grand Prix assignment, a telling sign. When they withdrew from it, citing injury, the rumors started. Though denials initially followed, yesterday both their coach Oleg Vasiliev and Bazarova herself confirmed she has chosen to walk away.

NAGANO, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 27: Vera Bazarova and Andrei Deputat of Russia compete in the pairs short program during the day one of the NHK Trophy ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2015 at the Big Hat on November 27, 2015 in Nagano, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura – ISU/ISU via Getty Images,)

According to Vasiliev, she also told the Russian federation she was done, making it sound like she was retiring. But later in the day, she herself said she’s not sure about that yet. She definitely will not continue with Deputat, saying there are multiple reasons, presumably conflicts between them. She also confirmed the break from the Russian national team. But she then said that isn’t her final decision. She needs a break, she said, and consider her options after New Year’s. This may perhaps lead to her going to the federation and taking it back. But it may mean she’s also considering looking for a partner abroad. If she wants to skate for another country, however, she needs the Russian federation to grant her a release, which they probably won’t want to do. That would be a saga that would likely go on for years.

Deputat, meanwhile, is moving on. Vasiliev said he has multiple tryouts, and is currently in the middle of one with Alexandra Proklova. Proklova has only skated singles before, and has the kind of record that would make her a top skater in many a country. However, she has been outskated by too many of her countrywomen in Russia, and is unlikely to get anywhere that way. She may see pairs as a more likely path to success. She’s good enough that with her Deputat has a fair chance at the success that has eluded him with his previous partners.

Next: Savchenko Has Partially Ruptured Ligament, Grand Prix Finale in Doubt

They’ve both got plenty of times for final decisions. At this time of the year, there’s really not much else for them to do. Even most of their potential partners for next season wouldn’t become available until other teams start splitting after Nationals. But if they want any shot at the Olympics next season, even a long one in the crowded Russian pairs field, they’ll probably want to have new partners by spring at the latest.