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Lambiel makes solid start

Lambiel salutes the Salt Lake crowd after completing his short programme Keystone

Swiss teenager Stéphane Lambiel has qualified for the free skate of the men's Olympic figure skating competition, after an assured performance in Tuesday's short programme.

The 16-year-old Swiss showed few signs of nerves on his Olympic debut, compensating for some slightly stray landings with some well-executed spins to finish the short programme in 16th position.

With an average mark of 4.7 for the technical requirements, Lambiel’s overall placing was boosted by his scores on the presentation which included five marks of 5.0 or above and a 5.4 from the German judge.

The top 24 skaters all progress to Thursday’s free skate, with their performance in the short programme accounting for a third of their final marks.

Yagudin in front

After winning the European title in Lausanne, Russia’s Alexei Yagudin began his bid for Olympic gold in style, comfortably winning the short programme with a technically accomplished and entertaining routine.

Yagudin’s Olympic chances increased sharply when his compatriot and arch-rival Evgeni Plushenko lost his footing. The mistake saw the reigning world champion finish fourth in the short programme standings.

Lambiel thrust himself into the limelight in January, when he achieved a sensational fourth place finish at the European championships in Lausanne.

But with half a dozen top athletes from the USA, Canada, Japan and China completing the Olympic field, Lambiel will do extremely well to make the top ten in Salt Lake City.

by Mark Ledsom

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR