Although the Swiss star won his ninth national title in Lugano last weekend, the two-time world champion struggled with his jumps.
"When Stéphane trained hard this fall, his groin problems came back," Peter Grütter, Lambiel's long time coach, said. "Since then, we have to work very carefully in practice and always have to see what is going to work on that day. He can only train seven or eight hours per week."
The 24-year-old skater, who is attempting a comeback to competition after skipping last season with a groin injury, admitted he was not in top shape.
"Before each practice and competition I do a very special warming-up program," Lambiel said. "I can no longer just warm up for six or 10 minutes and then do one jump after the other."
At the Swiss championships last Saturday, Lambiel received a whopping 244.23 points (including a two-point national bonus for trying a quad), outpacing his international personal-best, 239.10, earned at the Grand Prix Final in 2008. It is unlikely a panel of international judges will be as generous.
Although he rotated quad toe loops in both his short and long programs, he stepped out of the landing in the long. He had no triple Axel, executing several excellent double Axels (with +2 and +3 grades of execution). Some triples, including the flip, were shaky, but he collected many points for his excellent spins and exciting step sequences. His program components ranged up to 9.25.
"I reached my goal here in Lugano, but I need more time on the ice," Lambiel said. "At my next competition at the European championships [in Tallinn, Estonia in mid-January], I will be better."
He is not the only European man struggling with injury. In late November, Brian Joubert injured a ligament in his right foot while practicing a Lutz. Evgeni Plushenko is troubled by a painful left knee, likely due to over-training quads and quad combinations. Both these skaters say they hope to return in time for their national championships later this month.