Ice Network

Bell's move to Arutunian pays immediate dividends

Skate America runner-up has sights set on making podium in Kansas City
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Mariah Bell has used her 'East of Eden' free skate to help her win three international medals this season. -Melissa Majchrzak

Mariah Bell decided in August to leave her training base in Monument, Colorado, and move to Lakewood, California, to work with coach Rafael Arutunian, and the results were almost immediate.

In September, Bell won the silver -- her first senior international medal -- at the 2016 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Two weeks after that, the skater won bronze at the 2016 Ondrej Nepela Trophy.

Almost no one expected Bell to make the podium at 2016 Skate America, just her second career Grand Prix, but that's exactly what she did it. Sitting in sixth place after the short program, the 20-year-old outperformed such skaters as Mao Asada and Mai Mihara of Japan, Gabrielle Daleman of Canada and countrywoman Gracie Gold, losing only to her rink mate, Ashley Wagner, and earning a deserved standing ovation from the crowd.

Icenetwork talked with Bell about moving to California, the rapid progress she's made, her thoughts on her recent achievements and her goals for the 2017 U.S. Championships.

Icenetwork: You medaled at each of your last three competitions, including 2016 Skate America. Are you surprised at your recent accomplishments?

Mariah Bell: This season has been so exciting, from winning my first senior international medal in Salt Lake to my first Grand Prix medal at Skate America. My focus for each event has been to continue to build on my personal-best scores, but landing on the podium with some of the best skaters in the world has been awesome.

Icenetwork: Just two months ago, you changed training locations and coaches. What was the motivation behind this move?

Bell: Changing coaches and training locations is always a tough decision -- especially doing it in the middle of the season and when I had come off a good performance at Glacier Falls. But I knew I needed to improve my technique and make some training changes in order to reach the goals I've set for myself. 

Once you make the decision, you move on and don't look back. Training with Rafael has been awesome, and Ashley and Adam have been great as training partners and friends. Having Rohene [Ward] continue as my choreographer has been great and also made the transition smooth.

Icenetwork: Your skating has improved a lot since you moved to Rafael Arutunian in August. To what do you attribute this rapid progress?

Bell: I attribute a lot of my success to Rafael's technical expertise and the training environment. We have worked a lot on refining my technique, and every day things improve and I gain more and more confidence.

Icenetwork: Your free skate in Chicago was impressive. What is this routine like to skate?

Bell: I had skated to East of Eden as a short program when I was a novice, which was my first nationals experience. I have loved the music ever since and thought I might use it again one day. When Rohene and I discussed programs this year, I suggested East of Eden, and he was all in. The program he has choreographed is so beautiful, and the pace is perfect. I'm gaining more and more confidence with the program and love skating to that music. Hopefully, it shows to the crowd.

Icenetwork: What role does storytelling play in your skating?

Bell: Storytelling is so important for me. I am passionate about skating and need to be able to relate to my music. I need to be able to feel something when I skate. It comes from my heart and pours into the story I tell in each program.

Icenetwork: Would you like to compete at a second Grand Prix this season?

Bell: I would love to skate in another one, but that is out of my control. For now, I am preparing for and looking forward to Estonia in a few weeks at Tallinn Trophy!

Icenetwork: How does the lifestyle in Colorado differ from that in California?

Bell: The weather is probably the biggest difference, obviously! I really love it here in California. It's nice to be able to go to the beach and relax on a day off. Walking out of the cold rink into the warm sun is so nice and definitely not something I got in Colorado every day. But I think, soon enough, I will miss the snow, just a little…

Icenetwork: How much does working on the same ice as Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon motivate you?

Bell: Being able to train alongside Adam and Ashley and the other elite skaters on Rafael's ice has been such an honor. Everyone is very positive and hardworking, and it makes for a very motivating training environment.

Icenetwork: The 2017 U.S. Championships are less than two months away. What are your expectations for that event and the rest of this season?

Bell: For the rest of the season, my main focus is on training and preparing for nationals. I'm excited for the competition in Kansas City and look forward to putting two strong performances together. If I do that, I think I have a good chance to be on the podium, which would be exciting going into the next (Olympic) year. I have so much to learn and improve on with Rafael. I'm excited for what the future holds.