Swiss figure skating champion Stéphane Lambiel tells swissinfo.ch he is pulling out all the stops to try and compete for an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver in 2010.
A year after an injury forced him into early retirement, the two-time world champion kept his Olympic dreams alive by winning the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf in Germany last weekend.
On September 25 Lambiel won both the short and long programmes at the Nebelhorn championships, finishing more than 25 points ahead of his nearest rival.
He scored 232.36 points and is therefore halfway to meeting Swiss qualifying rules for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games under which skaters must score 195 points or better in two competitions.
He confirmed his return to form on October 3 when he led team Europe to victory at the Japan Open, scoring 150.52 points.
On October 16, 2008 Lambiel announced that he was putting an end to his competitive career because of a lingering thigh muscle injury. But in July 2009 he announced that extensive physiotherapy had since enabled him to control any pain felt as a result of the injury and he said he was preparing for the Olympics with his long-time trainer Peter Grütter.
swissinfo.ch: Are you happy with your Nebelhorn Trophy performance in Oberstdorf?
Stéphane Lambiel: I'm obviously satisfied with the way things went last weekend. I gave two good programmes, from both the technical and artistic point of view.
I felt very calm and serene during the three-week run-up to the competition. I feel in really good shape; the pains have practically disappeared.
Compared with previous years, I feel like I've got a slight head start in my preparations, as I had to prepare intensively for the Oberstdorf competition. This margin will be useful ahead of the Olympics.
swissinfo.ch: What made you want to make a comeback less than a year after your retirement?
S.L.: It was my state of health. I always wanted to fight but I needed the necessary weapons to do so. When I became fit again, I no longer had any doubts in my mind.
swissinfo.ch: Are your physical injuries now a thing of the past?
S.L.: The persistent thigh injury which I suffered from for over a year is under control. Two months' total rest were beneficial. I then started to skate again gently before taking part in a number of gala events.
I was lucky to be able to get to know a Canadian physiotherapist who helped me a lot. Like any elite sportsperson, my body is constantly under stress. But now I've learned to work with the pain.
swissinfo.ch: In the past you said you were making a comeback just for yourself and your own pleasure. Do you not care what the public thinks?
S.L.: I'm living a wonderful adventure. Whether it is gala events or competitions, I always skate for the general public and the judges.
But the main thing is that I've set myself a personal challenge. Afterwards, if people appreciate my work I am obviously delighted.
swissinfo.ch: When you are shaving in the morning do you ever think about winning a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics?
S.L.: Every day I think about competing, building my life and learning new things. Of course Olympic dreams go through my mind.
I'm doing my utmost, together with my team, to reach that goal. But it's not an obsession.
swissinfo.ch: Lots of people are talking about a future battle with the Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko, who beat you four years ago in Turin and who has also made a comeback. Is there any truth in this?
S.L: Yes, of course. The two best skaters of the two previous Olympcs will meet. But I'm avoiding any comparisons with him and I'm concentrating purely on my work. I'll let the judges decide who is the best.
swissinfo.ch: Like Roger Federer you are a worldwide ambassador for Swiss sport. What image of your country do you like sharing with people abroad?
S.L.: I try to represent Switzerland, and Portugal, my second country, as best I can. But I don't travel to each country with a fondue set and cheese (laughs).
But I am well aware of how lucky I am at my age to have already travelled a great deal and to have discovered other cultures while living my passion.
swissinfo.ch: When you were younger did you ever imagine you would have this kind of career?
S.L.: When I started skating at the age of seven, I wanted to be the best, to become a great champion and to be able to travel. Today I am very close to this ideal. If I had to start over again I would do exactly the same things again. I have no regrets.
I'm lucky to have parents who have always supported me and to have found a team to work with whom I can entirely trust. It's partly down to these people that I've been able to realise my childhood dreams.
Samuel Jaberg, swissinfo.ch (Adapted from French by Simon Bradley)
Stéphane Lambiel was born on April 2, 1985 in Martigny, canton Valais, 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.
He started to skate at the age of seven. 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 in 2008. In October 2008 Lambiel ended his competitive career at the age of 23, citing a lingering muscle injury.
In July 2009 he announced his return to the competitive arena and said he was preparing for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games qualifiers with his long-time trainer Peter Grütter.