StĂ©phane Lambiel: "I'm a little bit crazy"Â
By Reut Golinsky
Photos © Patrick Frauchiger
Four months ago, on the 16th of October, two-time World champion StĂ©phane Lambiel called a press-conference and announced his retirement from the eligible sport. He explained that his health doesn't allow him to train and use his body 100%, so it's impossible to think about winning the third world title or Olympic gold.
Season 2008/09 started without him. The Swiss skater's name was erased from the lists of Grand prix participants. Only banners from his fans (who continued to come to the competitions) and the other Swiss team members reminded us of the brightest figure skating star of the last few years. But figure skating is his life, he remains on the ice, he participates in shows. During the rehearsal of the one of them, the Swiss show "Art on Ice", we had a chance to talk to him about his life now, four months after such a hard decision.
StĂ©phane, what is the state of your health? How are you feeling right now?
It's better, still not 100% to be able to compete, but enough to participate in the shows. I love to think about the ideas of new programs, the audience. I love shows. Competitions and shows are very different. During the competition you're on your own, you're concentrating on your individual goal. There is no social life during the competitions; you cannot talk to other skaters. During the shows it's more like family, there is a balance between skaters and I like such an atmosphere.
But you loved competitionsÂ…
I had a really nice time during the competitions, but now it's over.
It is so sad to hear thatÂ…
But it's so.
You once said that after your decision you were sad for two weeks. You should know that there are lots of people who are still sad, who miss you during every competition, every Grand Prix eventÂ…
It's sad, it's a sad situation, because the skating world, the competition world is a little bit sick right nowÂ… because of the new system, which is very weird. It was a hard decision to retire, because I loved to compete, it was always my passion, but now I understand how I can challenge myself in the shows. I won't disappear, I will always skate, and I skate for myself; and in the shows I skate for the crowd. It's so nice to not have judges and not have rules, to just be free.
And to win, is this nice?
To win is nice, it's really nice. But I had this time, I know what it feels. And I don't know if it changes something in me to win more. I don't need more.
For many people it'll be hard to believe you. For example, you tried quad during your shows in Japan, so people started to say: "He is trying a quad, it means that he is thinking aboutÂ…"
No, really not. I'm still practicing, not that hard, but still practicing every day, trying my quad, trying my triple AxelÂ… I'm working, because it's my life, skating is my life. It's not only competitions, it's also skating, just skating for yourself, just challenging yourself. When I started skating, when I was seven, my goal was to be a champion. I realized my dream and it was also my dream to be a showman. I started skating because skating was not only a sport, for me it was also an art and that doesn't mean that after competing it stops - it continues.
I'm doing shows, not only "Art on Ice", since my decision to retire: I was also in Courchevel, in Japan, in Milan in the beginning of the January and with every show I had so much fun. I skated because the crowd was waiting for me.
In Milan you used a real rose in your program and you gave it to someone in the crowd, to the first girl you saw. A really good PR decision, I'm just kidding, of course. Is this always going to be so?
Oh, I don't think about the PRÂ… You know, it's just that when I finished my program, I got up and the first lady I saw was her. In life I'm like this - I don't want to push myself, to make myself do something against my will. When I feel something I go for it and that's what happened there: I came from my final position, I saw her and that was it.
For Japan I used the fake one again, but I would like to keep this tradition to have a real rose, I think it's nice.
Did you follow the competitions on TV?
Yes. From Grand Prix series I saw only selected videos on YouTube, but I watched Europeans. It was sad...
Sad because you were not there?
Sad because I wasn't there; and because I know the feeling to be in the competition. And I know it's overÂ…
What did you watch? Pairs? Ice dance? Ah! John and Sinead won bronze!
I was so happy for them, and also for Fede and Massimo (Faella/Scali), and Khokhlova-Novitski. It was the best podium, I was happy. I'm sad for Oksana and Maxim (Domnina/Shabalin), because I really like them. I feel for Maxim - it was still hard after that injury he had, but it's going to be interesting at Worlds. I think Tessa and Scott (Virtue/Moir) or Khokhlova-Novitski will take gold.
In pairs I saw only the short program and I liked Mukhortova and Trankov very much, they have a nice style. In general I love them more than Kawaguchi/Smirnov, who try so many different elements in their programs, it doesn't look aesthetic to me. Of course, I love Alyona and Robin (Savchenko/Szolkowy). Their program with the music from "Schindler's List" is the best, they are so goodÂ…
Do you know the results of American Nationals?
That was a disasterÂ… for Johnny it must be very hard, but I blame this on the new system. For example, Evan Lysacek, he was skating not bad, he could win with what he did, but he was third. Judges sometimes can do weird things to push someone up, even more than before. The new system allows that. For example, I still don't understand how they call components: a skater can do a program without transitions at all, but he will receive a good mark, because he is a good skater. Yes, if you're a good skater, you should get high marks for your skating skills, but if you don't have transitions, your mark for transitions should be low. Usually all the marks in the components are almost the same. It's not logical! Sometimes, for example, when a very famous skater makes some mistake, to save him they give very high components.
Yes, but the same way they "saved" you in Zagreb during your short program where you made a very simple triple-double toe combination.
Yeah, I know, but that's not right! You can't use components to push up someone and to put down someone else. It happens also when some non-famous skater performs a very good program and doesn't get components he deserves only because he is not famous. This is why I don't like this system, because it's easier to cheat with it.
I'm very surprised to hear this from you. You were always very diplomatic about those things.
I'm just shocked, because when I was skating I was not looking at the points. I told to myself that I shouldn't either discuss, nor complain about marks, but now, when I see this from the outside, as a spectator, when I'm very interested in who's gonna win, who's gonna make it, I see that this is weird.
There is no truth in figure skating, I think, this is a subjective sport: you can like someone or not. ButÂ… sometimes it looks too weird. But when I was skating I was not watching the others so I couldn't tell anything.
You didn't watch even afterwards?
No. Sometimes I watched my programs to see the mistakes and to see what I did well, but I never watched othersÂ… I cannot tell what for example Jeff or Plushenko did. I don't know, I have no idea.
Talking about Jeffrey I should say that the number you had in Japan was lots of fun.
Yes, it was very funny, we had so much fun. We were very nervous because the music was so weird, but in the end it was really funny. Jeffrey is a really nice person. For me he is a good friend, not only a good skater but a good person. He has nice ideas, we had a good time in Japan.
You often mention that you don't like technology, but you told me you watch videos on YouTube, you have an e-mail, when you were in NY you talked to your family with Skype, I supposeÂ…
It's trueÂ… I need Internet for mails. I use Internet to check scores or to watch some videos; I use computer to watch DVDs when I'm traveling. So it's great, but for so many years we lived without it and too many people, I think, use technology in a bad, not clever way. I think computers are dangerous because everybody knows everything about everybody. If you didn't have computers I'm sure the children wouldn't have the chance to watch very weird things. To tell the truth, I'm scared. I'm not against Internet, I'm not against computers. I'm just telling you that there is a way of living without technology, and I think I'm one of those people. With my work it's not possible but in another life I would love to live withoutÂ…
Without a cell phone?
Without a cell phone, without cars, without television, without computerÂ…
And what would you do? Read books?
I would run, travel, visit people, I would dance, definitely.
Talking about books, your favorite books, I know, are very sad, they have bad endings. Are you such a pessimistic person?
It's just I love drama. For example I love movies that end very badly, because I love to cry. I love dramatic thingsÂ…
Because they make you feel more?
Yes. For example, the last film I saw was "Changeling" with Angelina Jolie. I cried so much there in the cinema. I love Angelina but she had always such bad movies, she is always fighting and playing in stupid things, but this one was great because you really could see her talent.
And the last book I read was one of the biographies of Nureyev, the dancer. It's not the real biography; it's partly based on real facts and party fiction. I really like Nureyev. I would love to go back in past, to see him dancing.
You mentioned a few times that you want to become an actor, want to learn to be an actor. Why not a dancer? You are a dancer already.
Yes, I'm dancing on the ice; I would love to dance in future. Why not, that's a possibility, to dance. Everything where I can use my body and where I can express my feelings, I would love to.
So in spring, I read, you're planning to start to learn something in NY?
I don't know. I need time, I don't want to rush and then to be disappointed in my choice. I like doing my shows nowÂ…
Do you have anything planned after the show in St.Moritz?
I have some contracts going on but nothing is signed yet. So I have to wait. Maybe after "Art on Ice" I'll know more about the coming shows. The problem is in skating you never know. For example for Courchevel, they asked me in the beginning of November to send my contract, but they never called back. Then, suddenly, they called me a week before the show and it's always like that.
But did you enjoy that show in Curchevel?
It was hard - it was really hard. I was not ready at all because I only started skating in December. It was a very hard start.
What treatment do you need for your injury?
I'm doing special exercises with elastic band, to train the muscle. I need massage every week. And I need to put a special orthopedic insole, which I made in Munich, because I have one leg shorter. It was always this way but the more you train the worse it is. But I don't need to visit that doctor in Munich anymore because he was only giving me shots but they didn't help.
Which skating elements are the worst for this injury? Can you avoid them?
The worst are actually spins.
Then at least don't do them during the rehearsals!
But I need to train them: the long 45-50 second spin in "Freak like me" - I need to train it, otherwise during the show it'll be a disaster.
It's very beautiful, almost like the spin you had in "Fix you".
Yes, we wanted to do something like "Fix you", because I've never done it in Switzerland.
So spins are the worst. And, I think, the toe loop jump, because of the stress you have when you push off.
And you are doing not only triple, but the quadruple toe! So don't do it!
But this is my favorite jump! I love it! I love! I'm just a little bit crazy.
I think it's great to be crazy. Crazy things bring taste to our life.
Exactly! I understand that my body is not ready to compete, but I love to use my body, I don't want to stop this, because I really like skating, I really like to do quads, I really like to do spins, I really like the crowd to feel that I'm here! That's what makes me happy.
Determined and serious during training, where he is giving everything he has, even during a simple run-through; nice and laughing with people he knows; freaky and beautifully weird on the video which was shown on the screen while he was skating his program "Freak like me"; interesting, reflective and attentive during the interview, he always is so different. He said once in the interview that "he is a lot of personalities". He really is! This is what makes every meeting with him, on and off the ice, so amazingly fascinating and fresh.
You're such a charming person; I don't think it's something you can learn. It's something you are born with it. What is your secret, StĂ©phane?
I don't have any secret, really. I'm just not complicated, I'm an easy person, it's easy with me.
P.S. Just a little bit different. Have you read this part of the interview too?