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"Thin Ice" marks new chapter for Lambiel

Swiss star hopes for new creative heights as pro

Stephane Lambiel is looking forward to life as a pro skater.
Stephane Lambiel is looking forward to life as a pro skater. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/22/2010) - Stéphane Lambiel started his official life as a pro skater right where his eligible career left off, as an audience favorite.

In Thin Ice, broadcast on ABC on Sunday, March 21, the two-time Swiss world champion and his partner, 2006 Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa of Japan, started the evening fourth on the celebrity judges' [Katarina Witt, Dick Button and Kristi Yamaguchi] cards but first with millions of American and Canadian home viewers.

In the end, when the judges' scores for the second night of competition were added, the team's hip-hop turn to Beyonce's "Get Bodied" put them third in the five-team field.

"I thought it was great when Shizuka chose to skate with me; it was her idea to ask me," Lambiel, 24, said. "We know each other a long time now and we really like each other.

"They chose this hip-hop choreographer, Hi Hat [Nadine Ruffin], and we worked so hard with her to get all of those hip-hop moves. It was special and new for us; both of us are more lyrical skaters."

Lambiel's participation in Thin Ice, which was not sanctioned by the International Skating Union (ISU), marked his second and final retirement from eligible competition.

In October 2008, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist bowed out of competition after suffering a painful injury to an adductor muscle. After extensive physical therapy, including a new stretching and training regimen, he began training for another Olympics in the summer of 2009.

In Vancouver, he was the flag bearer for the Swiss team. While his quest fell .51 points shy of the podium, he counts it as a success.

Competing at Thin Ice, you gave up your eligibility, so no more Europeans, worlds, or Olympics.
For me, this season the goal was the Olympics. I knew from the beginning I was going for the Olympics and that's it.

I'm really happy with the way it all worked. I'm able right now to skate every day, to push it during the practices. I did in my first routine [at Thin Ice] the quad. I'm healthy and I think without this Olympic goal, I would not have been able to work as hard as I am doing right now.

So you count Vancouver as a success.
Yes, absolutely. It's a big satisfaction to be able to fight for an Olympic medal after a big injury. It was very close.

I was of course a little disappointed. When you are fourth, and you lose a medal by that tiny bit, it's always hard not to be sad. But in life there are more terrible things than to lose an Olympic medal, and I already have a silver medal. I think what is maybe more interesting about this Olympic experience is the road that I had to construct, until I could fight for this medal. That's more interesting to me than to win a medal.

Now, I feel healthy and strong enough to go out on the ice every day. I feel I can do more, I can entertain more.

You're keeping a busy schedule, that's for sure.
I already did Art on Ice between the Olympics and Thin Ice. We had a great success with six shows in Zurich; every show with 10,000 people coming to watch. It's one of the best [shows] right now in skating. And then we went to where I live in Lausanne, and we had two great shows there. It's a very nice tour, it's not like Stars on Ice with 40 or I don't know how many dates, but it's a special atmosphere with live music and acrobats and dancers. We feel always very sad when it's done.

I'm happy that right now I'm very busy. I have many shows coming up. I have Evgeni Plushenko's tour [in Europe] and I'm going to Japan also. I really hope I can make the cast in Canada for a few shows in Stars on Ice. I'm still looking for that.

Your fans in the U.S. don't get to see you as much.
There are not so many shows in America. I was happy to be part of this cast. We've been having so much fun here. It's great to be in one place and build something. [Thin Ice was rehearsed and performed over four days at the MGM Grand in Foxwoods, Conn.] Then we'll see if I can do more here. I would love to, but right now it's getting crazy in Europe and Asia with all the shows. I really hope that [pro skating] is coming back here, since you have the Olympic champion [Evan Lysacek] coming from the U.S.

Have you been home at all since the Olympics?
Actually I was not home for one day since February 10. That's soon two months that I'm traveling all over the place. It's great. I need to be busy. I need to travel, I need new things, and I need new challenges.

That's why I'm still doing quads in the shows. I really hope I can stay healthy and I can push it, because I think it's really special for a crowd to see a quad in a performance. It makes it special more interesting. And to do programs without rules to new choreography and stuff like that.

So you're really looking forward to embracing the life of a pro skater, for many years?
I really hope so. Skating is part of me and I really hope I can skate as long as my body tells me to and continue create something new. Now I can really think about programs all the time, not only for the [competitive] season; I can say for the next show, I want a new program, I want something new, a new atmosphere. That makes it very special.

Kurt [Browning, who co-hosted Thin Ice with Elizabeth Hasselbeck] is my inspiration. He's a great skater. He has this kind of attraction. You want to see what he's going to do. He's always different, always spontaneous. He speaks on the ice with his heart when he is skating; you can see it's natural. I really hope in my own way I can do what he has been doing. That's what skating is all about. It's about expressing yourself, expressing what you have inside of you. In shows there is no better way to do that.

Do you see yourself coaching, or choreographing for others?
I would love to do some choreography with great skaters. There are now very good young skaters. I love the Japanese skater, Takahiko Kozuka; he has great knees. [His skating] is very smooth.

I really hope I can work with some skaters, because the sport needs expression. It's not only elements; it's what you have inside. It's the show.