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Nathan Chen's crowning comeback would be remarkable achievement for his legendary coach

Rafael Arutyunyan has coached some of the sport's biggest stars, but never has he had a pupil like Nathan Chen.
Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong

BEIJING, China — Nathan Chen is set to go for gold on Wednesday night in the free skate of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the second half of the two-score men's individual event.

He comes into the free skate portion of the event leading the field after his record-breaking performance in the short program two nights ago.

Chen's coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, has helped guide some of the biggest stars the sport of figure skating has seen in modern times - from Michelle Kwan to Sasha Cohen to Adam Rippon to Ashley Wagner. 

But he's never had a pupil like Chen, and certainly never had a pupil undergo the kind of journey Chen has taken.

Nathan Chen Olympics basics

  • Next skate: Free skate event, begins Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET, 9:30 a.m. on Thursday morning locally in Beijing
  • Current position: First place, following his record score of 113.97 in the short program. The men's individual title is decided by a skater's combined scores from the short program and free skate.
  • TV: Airing in prime time on 11Alive, streamable via NBC Olympics here.

Chen's comeback from a disappointing 17th-place finish in the short program in Pyeongchang in 2018 and ultimately missing out on a medal, to winning gold at the next three World Championships and going on an incredible run of dominance that has him on the precipice of winning gold in Beijing, is unlike anything Arutyunyan has seen before.

According to the Associated Press, after the disappointment in South Korea, Chen "doubled down, working tirelessly" with Arutyunyan 

Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong

"He sharpened every aspect of his figure skating, from technical marks to his artistry, and he began to put together programs that nobody else had the nerve to try," the AP recounted after Chen's historic short program success.

According to the official Olympics website, the "gruff Armenian who is famous for his poker face" Arutyunyan was on the verge of tears after Chen's performance.

"I was standing there and basically I didn't even move," he said. "I was watching, just a little bit I had tears in my eyes; it's emotional. That's because it was a long journey. I'm with him... I think it's more than 10 years already I'm working with him. And that's why I think I was emotional."

 If Chen does indeed capture gold, it will have been the first time Arutyunyan has coached a skater to individual Olympic gold glory.


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