Olympic Channel EXCLUSIVE: Stéphane Lambiel opens up on coaching Shoma Uno
It was not a move that paid off right away, with Uno struggling in his Grand Prix season debut at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble, falling multiple times in both the short program and free skate.
At his second Grand Prix of the year, the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Uno linked up with Lambiel in a one-off capacity. Then, at Nationals, the 22-year-old accidentally let slip that Lambiel was his new coach.
Earlier this week, the Japan Skating Federation announced that Uno was skipping the Four Continents Championships to train more intensely with Lambiel.
Lambiel spoke to Olympic Channel Podcast host Ed Knowles on the sidelines of the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games, which are taking place in the city in which the 34-year-old 2005 world champion grew up skating in. Lambiel performed as part of the Games' Opening Ceremony.
The following interview has been edited for accuracy, brevity, and clarity.
Exclusive! Coach Stephane Lambiel: "No limits" for Shoma Uno
Exclusive! Coach Stephane Lambiel: "No limits" for Shoma UnoShoma Uno has a new coach: Turin 2006 silver medallist Stephane Lambiel. Olympic Channel spoke to Lambiel at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics about his new relationship with Uno, who won Olympic silver himself at PyeongChang 2018. The pair have decided to withdraw Uno from the Four Continents Championships to focus on the 2020 Worlds, but Lambiel says there are "no limits" for the Japanese, who he describes as "open and peaceful" to new ideas.
Being part of the Games
Olympic Channel (OC): Stéphane, thank you so much for joining us. It's so exciting to see you in Lausanne for the Winter Youth Olympic Games. It's super exciting for you personally, I think, because you grew up not far from here, right?
Stéphane Lambiel (SL): Well, I actually started skating in Lausanne. I remember there was an old building here, an old ice rink. And I used to start skating in the outdoor rink. And and I also lived for 12 years here in Lausanne. So I I feel at home.
And I had great memories from Lausanne events such as European Championships in 2002 where I got my qualification for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. I went to university here and the Olympic spirit is here. So it feels very special to be home and at the same time to feel the Olympic spirit.
OC: The Olympics, the headquarters are here, and it's your home, too. So with that comes a little bit of pressure for what you're going to be doing.
SL: I mean, it's a great honour to be part of the Youth Olympic Games in some way. I participated at the Youth Olympic Games as an Athlete Role Model in Lillehammer 2012 and in Innsbruck 2016. And there I met a lot of young skaters, very talented with a lot of potential. And those skaters, a few of them, they are now my students. So it's great to see how the generations evolve and to see how figure skating evolves.
Through this kind of event, you discover new talents, new disciplines, new inspiration. It's great for the sport, but it's also great for everyone around. From the region of Lausanne and from Switzerland. We love sports. We have a big tradition in winter sports. So for us, it's great to be able to celebrate what we love.
OC: Figure skating is one of the big draws at the Olympics. But I think especially here, it's going to be one of the real highlights. Anyone we should be looking out for; is there anybody in the figure skating world that you're excited to see?
SL: Well, I'm excited to see the Korean skater, You Young. She's quite amazing, landing a triple Axel. I've been following her career and she has great potential. So I'm very interested to see her compete here in Lausanne.
I worked with the Swiss skater Noah Bodenstein, and he's gonna be competing here. He has also great potential with a very nice presence on the ice. So I wish him luck. And the Japanese team, also the Russian team. I mean, there are many skaters that I would love to see and I can't wait to see the competition happening.
Working with Shoma Uno
OC: One of the people we should give a mention to, who is a Youth Olympian, is Shoma Uno, who you're now officially the coach of.
SL: That's true.
OC: If you cast your mind back to when Shoma made his first appearance to the public at the Youth Olympic Games. In the office, we are obsessed with the video, like tiny baby Shoma. We love it. We put it on the Internet a couple of weeks ago. And it blew up.
SL: Yeah, I saw that picture two days ago and I was with Shoma. I mean, he hasn't changed. He still has this baby face and and this pure and innocent spirit. And it feels great. I met him actually in Innsbruck at the Youth Olympic Games [in 2012].
And I still remember when I gave the conference. I still remember his eyes. He couldn't understand English, but his eyes were all sparkly and and full of dreams. It's a big honour for me to be able to work with such a talent.
OC: The mental aspect of figure skating, obviously, is absolutely huge. From the outside looking in, that's something Shoma seems to have had a few struggles with over the past 12 months or so. How important is it to be in the zone mentally to perform in figure skating?
SL: I mean, I think any sport, the mental part is quite big and the influence the coaching team and probably the closest persons around you as an athlete, they are so important. And the trust in in your circle needs to be present every day during practices because you have bad days, you have good days. You have days where there is no motivation. There are days where you land your first quad. There are days you have your friends with you, their friends. You're by yourself on the ice.
So every day you have something to face. And if the support is there and if the trust is there, it's for sure easier mentally to fight and then go towards what you dream. With discipline, with passion. I mean, Shoma when he practices, there is nothing random. There is this power, determination of an athlete that takes you up there. It's no magic.
The future for Uno
OC: The decision not to go to Four Continents and go to straight to the Worlds, what was the kind of reasoning behind that?
SL: There were a couple of changes during the last months. And we wanted to focus on Worlds and we wanted to take time to really nail the changes that have been happening, to take time to really practice and to focus on having a little bit more time to polish the programs and get the small details also in there.
Work on adding a quad in the run-through. So we have a few things that we need to work on. And with the start of the season that he had, I think it was important that he took a little bit more time for the practice and for what we have to work on.
OC: I think from your point of view, the world is his oyster now, I guess. What is the aim; the long term goal for Shoma? What are the kind of things that you can see in his future as a coach?
SL: I see no limits. (Laughs) That's what I see. He likes to challenge himself even in practice. So I see him developing himself through the years and of course, adding quads in his routine is one of our main goals. But also every season, to create new programs, to create a new atmosphere around him.
He has a unique way of moving. The movement that he does is very natural. So I would like to use this kind of natural feel to create the new atmosphere in his program. And we've been working with David Wilson the last few days and doing a little bit of touch ups on on his free program. And the fact that he brings this intensity is so beautiful and it inspires me.
This collaboration gives us even more freedom and inspiration to create more for him. He's very open to it. So the fact that he's open and peaceful and takes the challenge, makes it that there are no limits for him right now. No limits.
I feel Shoma is also... he doesn't care so much who is in front or who is behind him.
But I think what matters for him is that, "OK, I have my program, I have my content, I have what I want to show". And that's how he performed at Nationals. He didn't know what was going to happen. He just performed and he delivered what he was ready to deliver.
So I think for him, that's important. Not focusing so much on how many quads the others do; how many points the others score. But more, "OK, I'm ready to deliver this. Let's do it."