Nathan Chen’s coach loses Skate Canada accreditation over “inadvertently” violating  Covid “bubble” protocols

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Senior & Junior
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Nathan Chen’s coach, Rafael Arutunian, was not able to be at Chen’s side for Saturday’s free skate after Arutunian had his Skate Canada accreditation revoked for his inadvertent Friday violation of Covid-19 protocols at the event.

Reached by phone Saturday as he went for a PCR test so he could leave Canada immediately after the free skate, Arutunian said he would watch Chen from the spectator seats. Chen won Friday’s short program to take a 12-point lead into the free, which he also won easily.

“Nathan told me, ‘If you want to leave right away, it’s OK, I will take care of myself,’” Arutunian said.

Arutunian said he violated the protocol because of a lack of signage at a point where he had to decide which way to turn. He wound up in spectator seats, which are outside the bubble that skaters and coaches are required to stay within.

“Skate Canada International was organized under strict COVID-19 protocols, which required the hotel, transportation and venue areas only accessed by skaters and coaches to operate in a `bubble’ environment. Unfortunately, Mr. Arutyunan inadvertently exited the bubble while at the competition venue and as such was not eligible to re-enter,” Skate Canada spokesperson Amanda Speroni told via email.

“It is a regrettable situation and one that we tried to avoid, but once an individual exits the bubble they cannot re-enter, otherwise the integrity of the entire COVID-19 protocol would be jeopardized.”

Arutunian said his problems, first reported by Russian journalist Elena Vaytsekhovskaya, began when he was on his way back to the “bubble hotel,” and ice dance coach Igor Shpilband asked him to stay and give feedback on his team, Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin.

Arutunian said he went the wrong way because there were no indications he was leaving the bubble. He said a sign has been added since to make sure no one else makes the same mistake.

Speroni did not reply immediately to a question about the signage.

“In this case, what went down was appropriate,” Chen said after the competition. “It was reasonable to adhere to the bubble protocol to keep us all safe.

“That being said, I’m glad he was still able to be in the arena and that he was able to give me a quick call before I stepped on the ice.”

As he tried to explain what had happened to officials of the International Skating Union, Arutunian said ISU figure skating event coordinator Wieland Lueders began “almost yelling” at him to get out of the bubble area.

The ISU did not respond immediately to an email seeking comment.

“I am angry and disappointed,” Arutunian said. “I have tried to calm down but I cannot. I definitely want an apology from them (ISU).

“I totally understand the need for them (Covid protocols). I have no problem with that at all. What I don’t understand is people tried to make me guilty for going the wrong direction when there was nothing telling me which way to go.

Arutunian thanked U.S. Figure Skating for quickly arranging a room in a non-bubble building of the hotel. He also thanked Skate Canada for arranging a driver to get him to the PCR test.

He watched Chen’s Saturday morning practice from the spectator area. He expects to talk to Chen by telephone right before the free skate. Arutunian had planned to leave Canada Sunday morning.

“U.S. Figure Skating has nothing to add to what Skate Canada said in its statement,” USFS spokesman Michael Terry said via text.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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Coco Gauff rallies past 16-year-old at French Open

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff rallied to defeat 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the French Open third round in Gauff’s first Grand Slam singles match against a younger opponent.

The sixth seed Gauff, the 2022 French Open runner-up, outlasted Andreeva 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round, where she will play Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or American Kayla Day. Gauff could play top seed and defending champ Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals.

This week, Andreeva became the youngest player to win a French Open main draw match since 2005 (when 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria made the quarterfinals). She was bidding to become the youngest to make the last 16 of any major since Gauff’s breakout as a 15-year-old.

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The American made it that far at 2019 Wimbledon (beating Venus Williams in her Grand Slam main draw debut) and the 2020 Australian Open (beating defending champion Naomi Osaka) before turning 16. At last year’s French Open, Gauff became the youngest player to make a Grand Slam final since Maria Sharapova won 2004 Wimbledon at 17.

This was only Gauff’s third match against a younger player dating to her tour debut in 2019. It took Gauff 50 Grand Slam matches to finally face a younger player on this stage, a testament to how ahead of the curve she was (and still is at age 19).

While Gauff is the only teenager ranked in the top 49 in the world, Andreeva is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18 at No. 143 (and around No. 100 after the French). And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches at this French Open, fewest of any woman.

Gauff is the last seeded American woman left in the draw after No. 3 Jessica Pegula, No. 20 Madison Keys and No. 32 Shelby Rogers previously lost.

The last U.S. woman to win a major title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

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Rafael Nadal expected to miss rest of 2023 season after surgery

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is expected to need five months to recover from arthroscopic surgery for a left hip flexor injury that kept him out of the French Open, effectively ruling him out for the rest of 2023 ATP tournament season.

Nadal underwent the surgery Friday night in Barcelona on the eve of his 37th birthday. He posted that, if all goes well, the recovery time is five months.

The timetable leaves open the possibility that Nadal could return for the Nov. 21-26 Davis Cup Finals team event in Malaga, Spain, which take place after the ATP Tour tournament season ends.

Nadal announced on May 18 that he had to withdraw from the French Open, a tournament he won a record 14 times, due to the injury that’s sidelined him since January’s Australian Open.

Nadal also said he will likely retire from professional tennis in the second half of 2024 after a farewell season that he hopes includes playing at Roland Garros twice — for the French Open and then the Paris Olympics.

When Nadal returns to competition, he will be older than any previous Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era.

Nadal is tied with Novak Djokovic for the men’s record 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

While Nadal needs to be one of the four-highest ranked Spanish men after next year’s French Open for direct Olympic qualification in singles, he can, essentially, temporarily freeze his ranking in the top 20 under injury protection rules.

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