Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lambiel comes back with Olympics in mind

The siren call of the Olympic rings has lured one more skater back into training.

Two-time world champion Stéphane Lambiel has announced his return to the competitive arena nearly a year after a recurring muscle injury forced him into early retirement.

The Swiss star joins 2006 Olympic men's champion Evgeni Plushenko, 2006 Olympic ladies silver medalist Sasha Cohen, and three-time world pair champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao on the comeback trail.

"I feel really good, both physically and mentally, and I am determined to take on the Olympic challenge and score a top result in Vancouver," the 24-year-old said in his comeback announcement.

Lambiel held a short press conference on Sunday at the Zurich airport before boarding a flight to Toronto, where he will train for two weeks with Brian Orser, coach of world champion Yu-Na Kim and two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon.

"In Toronto I will have the best of [training] conditions, and I have an excellent physical therapist in Marla Pichler, who will be available to me," Lambiel told reporters.

After this trip, the skater said he plans to return to his regular training base in Geneva to work with longtime coach Peter Grütter.

Since announcing his retirement last October, Lambiel has waffled when discussing his future, at times saying he hoped for a competitive return and at other times claiming he was content to perform in shows, such as the Canadian Stars on Ice tour that he skated in this spring.

However, he now says extensive physical therapy has helped him control the pain caused by an injury to a left adductor muscle.

In Lambiel's absence, the top Swiss man at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, Jamal Othman, did not qualify for the free skate and failed to secure an Olympic spot for a Swiss male skater at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Therefore, Lambiel will compete at the Olympic-qualifying event, the Nebelhorn Trophy, in Germany from Sept. 23-26 in order to gain his country a spot.

Lambiel won the world title in 2005 and 2006, becoming the first Swiss world champion since Hans Gerschwiler in 1947. He took silver behind Plushenko at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

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