TWO NBC olympics interviews- Sharavopva and Fed get mentioned
Stéphane Lambiel enters the Torino Games as the reigning world champion; his victory at the 2005 World Championships in Moscow last March was by far the greatest achievement of his career and one of the best moments in the history of Swiss skating. Lambiel had an excellent qualifying round and short program (he won both) and entered the free skate in first place, ahead of Russian defending champion Yevgeny Plushenko, who stood in third overall after winning his qualifying group and placing fifth in the short program. Plushenko, who was struggling with a groin injury, withdrew before the free skate, leaving the event wide open. Lambiel seized the opportunity presented by Plushenko's absence, landing two quads and making only minor mistakes (popping his triple Axel), while the other top contenders faltered. Lambiel's victory made him the first male Swiss figure skating champion since 1947, and was particularly surprising considering the rough season he had leading up to the World Championships. An operation on the meniscus of his left knee in September 2004 kept him off the 2004-05 Grand Prix circuit and a poor free skate at the 2005 European Championships kept him off the medal podium, in fourth place.
Roger FedererBongarts/GettyRoger Federer called Lambiel after he won Worlds.
Phone call from Federer
Among those who called Lambiel after his winning free skate at the 2005 Worlds was Swiss superstar Roger Federer, the best tennis player in the world and now a seven-time Grand Slam event winner. Federer left a message to congratulate his countryman on the victory, and Lambiel, a longtime Federer fanatic, was thrilled. "He left me a message on my compact [cell phone] and it was very nice," the skater says. Lambiel had met Federer once, in the Swiss House at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, where Federer was playing and Lambiel was a spectator.
Lambiel's world championship made him the toast of his hometown of Saxon, in southwestern Switzerland. Upon his return from Russia, he was greeted by a large throng of well-wishers at the Geneva airport and immediately whisked to a press conference. The following day, Saxon hosted a huge welcome celebration for its new champion. The village was decorated with banners, and Lambiel sat atop a large float that paraded him through town. He was interviewed on national television, and was feted by humorists and Swiss politicians at a gala banquet, attended by 10,000 people. He also was presented with a new car, a personalized Ford Fiesta ST, by a local Ford retailer, one of his sponsors. The car is red with the words "Stéphane Lambiel, champion du monde [world champion]" written in white script across the sides and back; the license plate is "17 03 05" to mark the date that Lambiel won the world championship. Lambiel drives the car all the time, but by the fall of 2005 he had removed the personalized decals so as not to attract attention when he's on the road.
Stephane LambielJamie McDonald/Getty ImagesSpin specialist Stephane Lambiel won the men's figure skating world crown in 2005.
Lambiel's amazing spins are what most distinguish him from his competitors on the ice. He spins incredibly quickly -- the difference in the speed of his spins and those of his competitors is pronounced, even to the inexpert observer -- and he achieves unique, difficult and aesthetically pleasing positions during his spins. Although his spins are much faster than those of his competitors, Lambiel doesn't always score particularly well on them because he isn't awarded high levels of difficulty (for changing edges, etc.). He does get high grades of execution for his spins, however. Lambiel admits that his best spins do leave him a bit dizzy, so he leaves them for the end of his program. Able to spin in both directions, he jokes that his ability in this regard comes from the Swiss chocolate he consumes regularly. Switzerland has a strong spinning tradition: 1981 world champion Denise Biellmann invented the spin that bears her name, and 1996 Swiss national ladies' champion Lucinda Ruh is in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for completing the most continuous revolutions on the ice on one foot.
For the first time in several years, Lambiel was healthy enough this fall for a complete Grand Prix campaign. He placed second to Canada's Emanuel Sandhu at the Cup of China in Beijing in early November. Three weeks later, Lambiel finished second to Plushenko at the Cup of Russia in St. Petersburg, where he recorded a then-personal best total score (225.55), including a higher free skate score (147.20 points) than he tallied in his winning free skate at the 2005 World Championships. (He still finished 16 points behind Plushenko, however.) At the Grand Prix Final, held in Tokyo in mid-December, Lambiel dominanted his competition (which did not include Plushenko), recording personal best scores in the short program (80.60) and the free skate (149.50, despite a fall on his triple Axel). His final score of 230.10 moved him ahead of Sandhu (who placed fifth and last in the Grand Prix Final) on the all-time list and made Lambiel the second-highest scorer in history (behind Plushenko). He then placed second to Plushenko at the European Championships in January -- his first career European medal. In addition to his 2005 world title, Lambiel's performances this season establish his as a likely candidate to win Switzerland's first Olympic figure skating medal since 1948, when Hans Gerschwiler won silver in St. Moritz.
The 2005 World gold was, incredibly, the first senior championship medal Lambiel ever won. The six-time Swiss national champion has recorded three fourth-place finishes at world or European events, including his breakthrough performance at the 2002 Europeans in Lausanne. There, Lambiel, who was only 16 at the time and not yet doing any quadruple jumps or even the triple Axel, thrilled the Swiss audience with a flawless short program and free skate. The Swiss federation had said it would send him to the 2002 Olympics if he placed in the top 12 at the 2002 Europeans; his fourth-place result far exceeded that criterion and earned him a trip to Salt Lake, where he placed 15th. In the post-Olympic season (2002-03), Lambiel started adding the quad and the triple Axel to his programs. The following year at the 2004 World Championships, he boldly attempted two quadruple jumps in his free skate despite having skated erratically in practice. Lambiel landed both quads and placed fourth overall, a result that was a considerable improvement over his 2003 finish (10th) and one that signified his emergence as one of the world's best skaters.
Lambiel and KostnerStephaneLambiel.chLambiel and former girlfriend Carolina Kostner of Italy are still close friends.
Lambiel the linguist
Like his former girlfriend Carolina Kostner , with whom he remains close friends, the 20-year-old Lambiel speaks five languages. He and Kostner, the 2005 world bronze medalist from Italy, have four languages in common: French, German, Italian and English. Lambiel also speaks Portuguese; his mother is of Portuguese descent and he vacations there often to visit family. In June 2004 Lambiel earned his maturité -- officially the equivalent of a high school diploma in the U.S., but more accurately about the same as completing 1-2 years of college -- and moved from his family's home in Saxon to an apartment in Lausanne. He enrolled at the University of Lausanne in the fall of 2004 but then decided to postpone his studies for the time being. He's interested in one day studying business or hotel management.
Lambiel, the son of Fernande and Jacques, has an older sister, Silvia, and a younger brother, Christophe. He started skating at age 7 when his mother brought him with her to pick up Silvia from her figure skating lessons. Stéphane saw the kids skating and wanted to try it. Immediately, he was hooked -- much to the dismay, he jokes, of Fernande, who wanted her son to play hockey.
Ilia KulikMike Powell/Getty Images1998 Olympic champion Ilia Kulik of Russia is one of Lambiel's idols.
Some skating specifics
Lambiel gets bored easily and usually enters a season with a few different programs to choose from. For the Olympic season, however, he's settled on "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" for his short program and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" for his free skate. Geneva-based Peter Gruetter has been his coach for more than a decade, though they spent a few months apart in 2004-05. His choreographer is former ice dancer Salome Brunner, who represented Switzerland at the 1984 World Championships. He has also spent some time training with Aleksei Mishin, who is Plushenko's coach. Lambiel's career has twice been interrupted by knee surgery (right meniscus in 2002 and left meniscus in 2004). He collects any trinkets having to do with lady bugs, which he says bring him good luck. Sometimes at competitions, while awaiting his scores in the kiss-and-cry area, he'll use his hands to make "horns" above his head, a gesture which he says is an imitation of a ladybug. Lambiel's idol in figure skating is Russia's Ilia Kulik, the 1998 Olympic champion.
Looking back at last year's World Championships, are you proud of yourself for hanging in there despite not being in your peak condition? Or are you disappointed, knowing the potential was there for you to do better?
I don't get strung out about results. I am not a result-driven or money-driven person. I really value the quality of the performance and the quality of my memories from that performance. And what I'll remember from Worlds is the support from the audience and the fact that even not 100 percent, I was able to get through it, still be fourth in the entire world, which is -- I guess -- it's pretty impressive, now that I think about it. It's not where I would've hoped to be. The way I was skating before, I would've been world champion, had I gone healthy.
You really believe that?
Yeah, I would have been. I was definitely [skating to a level of] what would be the world champion. It's something I'll always look back on and smile because that's the day that I really felt like I grew up and that I really became a champion.
When Yevgeny Plushenko is healthy and skating up to his standard, can he be beaten?
No. Not right now. I think Plushenko, as long as he's healthy and does his best, will be Olympic champion. So the rest of us are fighting for second. And that's not an insecurity, that's just the way it is. He's the ultimate men's skater right now. He's my competitor, and he's who I'm up against for all these titles, but he is a rock star. He's incredible. He has barely any flaws in this sport, and he's learned how to master his nerves and still be a strong competitor. He's a nice guy and that's something I always look forward to finding out about people.
Yevgeny PlushenkoNadine Rupp/Bongarts/Getty ImagesWeir doesn't think anyone will beat Yevgeny Plushenko.
I know you're a fan of all things Russian...
I'm a "Russia-phile."
How good is your Russian? When you're on the ice with (renowned Russian coach/choreographer) Tatyana Tarasova, do you speak English or Russian?
She'll speak Russian and then I'll answer in English. Or, I'll try to answer in Russian, and she gets really excited. I can write pretty well in Russian, and I can understand a lot of Russian. My speaking isn't 100 percent, because there are so many different sounds and letter combinations than in English, so it's really tough for me. But I try. And it's good for people not to know how much I know.
You also speak French?
Yes, I speak French. I took two years in high school and somehow I became very good at it, and I learned a lot more than we actually knew in class. It's been a long time since I studied but I can still get around pretty easily in Paris.
Johnny Weir necklaceNBC ImageHis "D" necklace is for Christina Aguilera's song "Dirrty."
As for your Christina Aguilera obsession -- have you met her?
No. I would kill to meet her.
It would be great if an introduction could be arranged.
Yeah. Ahhhh, I would pee. I just think she is an incredible role model. She is very talented, as I think I am in my line of work. She doesn't apologize for the way she is or what she does, and there's something very admirable about that -- the fact that you don't care if 200 million people hate what you did. You're still comfortable enough with it that you love it and that you don't care what they think. And that's something that I've tried to incorporate in my training and my mental toughness, just because I do love everything I do and I do appreciate the work I've done, and I feel comfortable with everything that I do. So there's no reason for me to apologize for it. And she's helped me kind of realize that you can be your own person and be successful. And she doesn't take any crap -- that's something that I find very inspiring.
So she's your favorite performer. Do you have any favorite athletes?
[Maria] Sharapova is beautiful. I love her. She doesn't even sweat and she works out hard. That's why I like her.
Christina AguileraJeff Haynes/AFP/Getty ImagesWeir is crazy for Christina.
Any pre-competition rituals?
I listen to the same song every competition.
What song is that?
I can't tell you.
Can you give a genre?
Cocaine (laughs). I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Guilty pleasures -- I love a good steak. I love maxing out credit cards. I feel good when I do that. Cheesecake.
Do you allow yourself to eat dessert with your training regimen?
I don't eat. I just don't do it. But when I do, I do it right. And I love to do it. It's a guilty pleasure to have that kind of stuff because I generally don't have it. So I feel bad when I do.
You're a fake tanner? Any tips?
The mystic tan. I was doing the cocktail for a little while. I was doing mystic tan and then running into the tanning bed as well. I'm not really that far into my tanning training yet this year. Tips? Make sure you wear the hairnet. And make sure you don't shower for two and a half hours, not three. 'Cause three, for some reason, it sticks a little harder. But I've been doing the lay-down tanning bed, and where my butt cheeks push together there's a white triangle because it never gets tan.
Weir familyCourtesy of Patti WeirWeir thanks his parents for his good genes.
What's it like to do a sport where appearance does matter?
It's difficult, but... I'm not saying I'm beautiful, but I have the ability to look nice. I was lucky with the fact that both my parents are very athletic people or slim people. My mom's very slim, my dad's very athletic, so I got kind of the middle. And I was very lucky with that. But it's luck on how you look.
In the summer, you train in the northeast. What do you do in Avon, Conn., at night?
I'm seeing someone in Boston, so I know the area well. There's not so much to do. I enjoy sitting around and just relaxing, watching a movie with some candles, having a glass of wine, doing whatever, just chillin'.
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