The 2005 and 2006 World champion Stéphane Lambiel continues to skate in galas, and occasionally jumps a triple Axel or a quadruple toe loop at 37. During the European Championships, we talked about his coaching role with Shoma Uno and Deniss Vasiljevs and his love of ice dance.
Solène: Deniss Vasiljevs has always had a particularly high popularity rating. How do you analyze it?
Stéphane: I'm not sure I have an explanation... but I would like to have one! He's smart, he has a strong personality, and he skates gracefully while being very athletic. He shows a great quality of execution of the elements. That's what I see, but it's hard to analyze and measure. I can understand why the public likes him, he is extraordinary.
Solène: I noticed that he spoke a little French!
Stéphane: Yes, he speaks French well! He has a very good ear. He makes mistakes but it's fluid. When he dares to speak, he does so very well. We sometimes speak French together. He lives in Switzerland and has many French people around him. He should take the time to learn how to write. When you learn a language, knowing how to write it helps you better formulate your thoughts.
Solène: I've been told that you have a soft spot for our French ice dancers, Loïcia Demougeot and Théo Lemercier…
Stéphane: True! Loïcia and Théo bring a breath of fresh air. It's always interesting to see young people with strong personalities. Loïcia has made a huge leap forward over the past year. They have talent and their work pays off! I wish them a great and long career where they will continue to develop their creative spirit.
Solène: What is your relationship to ice dance?
Stéphane: I like the discipline in general. It is the one that has suffered the least from the change in the judging system. Judging skating is very complicated. With the new system, we try to create boxes and put points in them, but that does not define the quality of the movement and the skating, or even the emotion that the skater transmits. There is still a lot of aesthetics to ice dance and skaters value the history of their program, the concept behind it, the beauty of their movements, the musicality, and the costumes. The creative research is deeper than in other disciplines, hence my love and passion for ice dance.
Solène: You have choreographed a few programs for ice dancers, including Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron's free dance in 2019, on Rachel Yamagata's ‘Duet’ and ‘Sunday Afternoon'. What do you think of this creative experience several years later?
Stéphane: My first experiences in ice dancing were with Maia and Alex Shibutani, as well as with German ice dancers, Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi. I enjoyed creating choreographies for them. The connection between the two athletes is interesting and creates something even deeper than for single skaters. I had the opportunity to choreograph this free dance for Gabriella and Guillaume, who gave me a blank page to write for them. Creating this program with two such incredible ice dancers was pure joy and a great experience. Guillaume and I also have a project – or let's say a dream – to skate together. I hope we can make it happen!
Solène: What role do you give to creation during the training sessions with your students?
Stéphane: I love spending time creating with my students. We focus a lot on the competition programs but as soon as we can get out of the competition schemes, we can let ourselves go on the music. It's great. Skating has so much more to offer than jumps and points! It is important to highlight this facet of our sport. The beauty of skating and its movements inspire you; they make you dream. We want to be in the athlete's body to experience the same sensations.
Solène: Several Japanese skaters, including Shoma Uno, train with you in Switzerland. How do you support them in this change of environment?
Stéphane: It's a big personal change, and their commitment to this process is key. We can adapt to any environment when the commitment is there. It is important to stick to your decision. Some things are no longer possible, like having family dinners every Sunday for example. My athletes make this commitment when they decide to come to Switzerland. There are also quieter times when they can go home, and see family and friends. I'm not here to put them into military service! In Champéry, they learn about themselves and their skating, they develop their skills. They go as far as possible and one day they will tell me that they no longer need me (smile). They will pass on to others what they have learned. This is my mission as a coach: to give them tools, to have a great experience, and to walk a path together. Afterward, students must fly on their own. It's like being a parent!
Solène: What inspires you at the moment?
Stéphane: That's a good question... Nature, but also and above all, music. When I listen to music, I immediately think of movements or a skater. I have images that come to mind. I listen to all types of music. Our phones know our tastes well and guide us in one direction but I try to break that and open up to other styles. I’m also thinking about a concert that I loved this year: Paolo Nutini at the Montreux Jazz Festival. His energy was amazing!
Solène MATHIEU for Skate Info Glace