The above is a really good article about Michelle and her new coach Rafael Arutunian who used to be Sasha Abt's coach.
Arutunian says Sasha Abt left the U.S. , presumably meaning southern CA anyway, "Because of stupid."
Michelle sounds like she is aiming for Turin in 2006.l
New coach helps energize Kwan
By Philip Hersh
Tribune Olympic sports reporter
December 25, 2003
LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. -- This began when Michelle Kwan was looking for someone to fix severe problems with her custom-made skate boots. Her choreographer, Nikolai Morozov, told Kwan one of his buddies was the man for the job.
In mid-November, Kwan took her boots to Rafael Arutunian, a figure skating coach with a cobbler's skills. Arutunian made some adjustments and watched her skate. Then he made more adjustments, watched her skate again and made some suggestions about technique. More adjustments, more suggestions.
After several sessions, Kwan asked Arutunian if he would like to help fix her skating as well as her skates. He was stunned.
"Anybody would be surprised," Arutunian said in his self-taught, still developing English. "It's Michelle Kwan, right? Everyone wants to just talk with her, and I'm working with her. I think I am the luckiest man in the world."
They are working at Lake Arrowhead, at the mile-high rink in the mountains east of Los Angeles. It is where Kwan trained under Frank Carroll from 1992 through 1998 and where she returned for a few months after breaking with Carroll right before the 2002 Winter Olympics.
She was training without a coach then. Arutunian was at the rink coaching 2002 Russian Olympian Alexander Abt. Kwan occasionally would ask Arutunian for help, especially on jumps.
This time, Kwan wanted help to get back to the future.
"If I look into the future for the  Olympics, it's like, `OK, if I want to do it, maybe Rafael can take me all the way,"' she said.
After the 2002 Winter Games, when she let a gold medal slip away with a mediocre free skate, Kwan was uncertain about her future beyond the ensuing Champions on Ice tour. Worn down by the lengthy tour and the pressure of the Olympic season, she wanted to cut herself some slack.
"I didn't know where I was in my life," she said.
At the same time, Kwan knew she would continue competing, and she realized that doing it without a coach was not a good idea. She turned to Scott Williams, who understood his role was to be more teammate than teacher, to provide more comfort than critique.
"I didn't need anyone then to really push me, because I felt like I just wanted to relax a little bit," Kwan said. "It was perfect how I fell into [contact with] Scott, and he was a longtime friend, and I'm like, `Hey, Scott, can you help me out?"'
He could. Kwan was unbeaten in Olympic-style events last season. She won Skate America, a seventh U.S. title and a fifth world title, but with performances she knew were lacking some of what had made her one of the great skaters in history.
Her fierce competitiveness had been enough to compensate for shortcomings that bothered Kwan more than skating judges.
"I looked at some videos after last season and I realized I have been pretty much the same skater for a while," she said. "I think I need to step it up a notch.
"I had spoken to Rafael many times before. He has that technical thing about him. He's just intense. The intensity is hard to keep up with."
They have worked together since right before Thanksgiving, when Kwan relocated from her town house in the Los Angeles suburbs to a hotel in Lake Arrowhead. Arutunian was at Kwan's side a week later as she won a pro-am, her first competition of the season. Seeing how Arutunian dealt with the competition atmosphere convinced Kwan their collaboration could be fruitful.
"Before I start to work with her, I realize she is good: five-time world champion is five-time world champion," Arutunian said. "But when I start to work with her, I realize she is a genius on ice. She picks up everything without explanation."
Arutunian, 46, who previously had coached in Russia and his native Armenia, moved to Lake Arrowhead with Abt before the last Olympic season. The talented but famously inconsistent Abt had the best results of his career in 2002--second in the European championships, fourth at worlds, fifth in the Olympics. Then Abt returned to Russia, apparently leaving his skills behind.
"He didn't stay here because of stupid," said Arutunian, not one to sugarcoat an opinion.
Kwan, 23, knew that sort of frankness was what she needed to improve as she prepared for January's U.S. championships, where she will compete for a record 12th straight time at the senior level. Two of her jumps, the loop and salchow, had become shaky. Sometimes it appeared she rested during programs.
"All coaches try to hide weak parts and make shiny your strong parts," Arutunian said.
The weak parts?
"Everything should be much more powerful, stronger and reliable," he said.
The trick, with a skater of a relatively advanced age and a body that has taken years of pounding, is to push without risking injury.
At a recent practice, Kwan rolled through her four-minute free skate with a performance good enough to win another U.S. title. There was no chance for her to catch her breath in the four minutes, especially since her trademark spiral sequence has been shortened and there are more details that demand attention in the spaces between elements.
"You're taking up all my resting spots," she teased Arutunian.
The resting spots, she knew, were what judges and critics were complaining about, what she needed to get past.
"I have to push a little more," she said, "and not say, `This is good enough.' It's going beyond good enough."'
Not since Norway's Sonia Henie, who won 10 world titles and three Olympic gold medals from 1927 through 1936, has a skater been as good for as long as Kwan. Only an Olympic gold medal has eluded her; she won silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002.
"Nobody can compare to her now. Nobody," Arutunian said. "I'm looking forward to the Olympics and try to get her that medal."
Which medal goes without saying.
Copyright © 2003, The Chicago Tribune