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Figure skater Lambiel ends competitive career

Stéphane Lambiel, the two-time world figure skating champion, has ended his competitive career at the age of 23, citing a lingering muscle injury.

The first Swiss world champion in 48 years, Lambiel will from now on perform only in exhibition galas.

Lambiel was world champion in 2005 and 2006 and won silver at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, behind Evgeny Plushenko of Russia.

He left Switzerland over the summer to live and train in the United States. He had split with his long-time coach, Peter Grütter, after finishing fifth at the World Figure Skating Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Known best as an artistic skater and a master of creative spins, Lambiel had been working in New Jersey with Ukrainian coach Viktor Petrenko, the Olympic gold medallist at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville.

In late September, he wrote on his website that he would resume training.

Thursday's announcement surprised the president of the skater's fan club.

Memories

"There is a certain amount of disappointment for sure among the fans, but over these last few years, we have been able to share some very good moments with him," Pierre-Yves Puippe told swissinfo.

"The World Championships, the Olympics – we were there each time and those were etched into our memories."

"We think it's an excellent decision and know it was difficult for him to make," he added.

But Lambiel, who had battled knee injuries, was reported to be behind schedule preparing his routines for the new season and had pulled out of upcoming Grand Prix events in Canada and France.

He said he had been able to train only at 90 per cent fitness because of the injury.

"It's seven months that I've been going to see the best doctors," Lambiel said. "I still have the pain and it's really not possible to train like that.

"I didn't have the ability to reach my objectives. My goal was to be world champion and Olympic champion."

Local hero

When he left to train in the US, Puippe said the Lambiel's fans understood. The skater was universally known in the small town of Saxon, where he grew up.

He was 16 when he skated for Switzerland at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

His music choices have included soundtracks from the films Chocolat, Blood Diamond and The Truman Show, as well as from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

Lambiel said he still had a passion for skating and entertaining his fans, and would return to the ice in exhibition productions.

"I still want to give my best possible performance," he said.

Switzerland's top competitive male skater is now Jamal Othman, who finished 22nd in Gothenburg.

swissinfo with agencies

Stéphane Lambiel

Stéphane Lambiel was born in 1985 and lives in the city of Lausanne.

The skater grew up in Saxon, in canton Valais, and speaks French, German, English and Portuguese.

His mother is from Portugal.

Lambiel is able to spin and jump in both directions, which few skaters are able to do.

His major titles include silver at the Olympic Games in Turin, 2006 and the World Championships in Moscow in 2005 and Calgary in 2006. He is also the seven-time Swiss champion (2001-2007).

He won silver at the European Figure Skating Championships in Croatia earlier this year.

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