Swiss figure skating champion Stéphane Lambiel says an Olympic gold in Vancouver next month is within reach.
A year after an injury forced him to announce his early retirement, the two-time world champion will be back testing his form in the European championships in Estonia next week ahead of the Winter Games.
“There’s lots of nervousness and stress like before each big competition,” Lambiel told swissinfo.ch on Monday. “But these are perhaps my last Games. I want to finish the job.”
“Before opening a new chapter I want to close the previous one.”
Lambiel won the world championships in 2005 and 2006, becoming the first Swiss world champion in 48 years, and in 2006 took silver at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
On October 16, 2008 he announced that he was putting an end to his competitive career because of a thigh muscle injury. But in July 2009 the skater from canton Valais announced his surprise comeback.
Despite lingering pains, he says he is very satisfied with his preparations and an Olympic medal is a realistic objective.
“The gold medal [in Vancouver] is possible; I believe it,” he told journalists in Lausanne.
Before then, Lambiel will take part in the European Figure Skating Championships in Tallin, Estonia (January 19-24), which represent his biggest competitive test for 22 months.
Victories at the Nebelhorn championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September and at the Swiss championships in Lugano in December were not totally convincing. The Swiss skater did not show off his triple-axel skills and had difficulty with his quadruple toe loop.
“I’ll have to do better technically in Tallinn,” he admitted.
However, the European championships remain a “major objective” that he has never won and constitute an “important test”.
“I will then have two weeks before the Games to carry out any last minute changes,” said the Swiss champion.
Special training routine
Extensive physiotherapy, painkillers and a special training routine have enabled Lambiel to control any pain he feels as a result of his injury and to continue his “adventure”.
The Swiss skating star played down the seriousness of the persistent pains in his leg.
“They are not new; I’ve had them for two years now. I have physiotherapy every day, I train on the ice every day and use icepacks every day,” he explained.
“At the moment my training sessions focus on building my confidence so that I can arrive at the championships with serenity.”
“The important point is quality. With my trainer [Peter Grütter], we don’t try too many jumps. What’s important is to do them well,” he said
"Training and moving my muscles is the best way of strengthening them,” he added.
Fresh new programme
The Swiss skater is likely to face fierce competition for a medal in Tallinn and Vancouver, especially from his great rival Evgeni Plushenko.
The two will skate against each other for the first time since the Russian beat him at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Plushenko also is making a comeback after a three-year break.
But Lambiel says he is not interested in their rivalry. And to help tip the judges in his favour, the Swiss skater has come up with a new free skating programme set to music from Verdi’s opera “La Traviata”, which he will showcase in Tallinn.
“La Traviata has a waltz-like rhythm; it’s fresh, it turns and best expresses how I feel at the moment,” he said.
Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch
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 nine-time Swiss champion (2001-2009).
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.