Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel is a favorite of many skating fans. He has been competing for many years, and this will be his third Olympic games. He is the reigning Olympic silver medalist.
Lambiel won the 2005 world championships (Plushenko withdrew with an injury - Lambiel had been leading heading into the free skate). Lambiel has great footwork and great artistry, and is one of the greatest spinners out there, but he's also been fairly consistent on the quads over the years. Still, he is one of the skaters being held up as "artists" versus athletes. Lambiel's achilles heel is the fact that he does not have a consistent triple axel, which is particularly a problem in the short program, where he must then do a double axel, and garner far fewer points than other skaters.
Lambiel followed up his 2005 world championship victory with a Grand Prix final championship, a silver at the Olympics, and another gold at the world championships. The next season, he was a bit erratic; he withdrew from competitions for health reasons as well as "burnout." Still, he was able to win a bronze medal at the 2007 world championships. The following season was even more of a disappointment; he only finished fifth at the world championships. He retired later in 2008, citing a thigh injury.
Lambiel could not stay away for long, and he announced his return to competitive skating in 2009. He followed that up with a victory at the Nebelhorn Trophy. He has been a bit sloppy overall, but he's still trying those valuable quads. He unveiled a well-received free skate to La Traviata at the recent European championships, which helped pull him up to second place and the gold medal. He bested champ Evgeny Plushenko on program components.
The reason I like to watch Lambiel so much is that he commits to the program and the emotion of the program no matter what. He can fall all over the place on the jumps but I will still watch his every move because I know he'll likely be doing something interesting. He really is an arist.
The Programs: Lambiel's short program is to the William Tell Overture. It's a crowd pleaser and it's got a fun footwork sequence towards the end. I think for me, the La Traviata free skate received so much hype that when I finally watched it, it could not quite live up to what I was expecting. Still, it's a good program and Lambiel will surely perform it well at the Olympics.
Latest Performance: His free skate was quite sloppy to me. He touched down on a quad and had several sloppy landings. Additionally, he fell on footwork - stamina appears to be a problem. I don't know how that program would fare against a clean Evan Lysacek or Jeremy Abbott, for example. Additionally, in his short program, he nearly fell on his quad. And he attempted no triple axels. Still, he did three quads in the competition. That cannot be overlooked.
Strengths: Not only does Lambiel do a quad consistently, but his program components and levels for spins should be among the highest in the world.
Weaknesses: Sloppy landings, lack of triple axel.
It gives me the creeps when: He loses speed at the end of the program - because that's the time to sell it!
I think it's awesome when: He spins.
Outlook: Lambiel should definitely be considered a medal contender, because we know he'll have the some of the higher program components scores and he'll try a few quads. I'm not sure if he'll get away with skating like he did at Europeans and still be able to medal, however. He'll likely be a treat to watch no matter what the outcome is.