Ready for a comeback
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) -- Stephane Lambiel and Brian Joubert are both making comebacks and looking to gain momentum.
The pair has combined to win the last three world titles, and they head into the European Figure Skating Championships, which start Tuesday, hoping to get in shape for the world championships in March.
Lambiel won the world titles in 2005 and '06, and was the silver medalist at the 2006 Turin Olympics. But he has yet to win a European championship. He withdrew a few days before last year's Europeans, citing lack of motivation and focus.
"You can't always be on top of your game," Lambiel said. "I was not here last year, but I never left figure skating."
But the Swiss skater arrives at Europeans in top form after winning his second Grand Prix final title last month.
"I know my goals now. I know what I want to achieve," Lambiel said. "I have developed since 2006. It is a new step and I am ready to make it."
And that starts with winning his first European title.
"I had the silver medal two years ago. Now I would have like to leave a little trace on the records of the European championships," Lambiel said. "I have had my name at the head of the world championships twice and now I would like to see it at the top of the Europeans."
To do that, though, Lambiel will have to overcome Joubert, who has been unbeatable since the start of the 2006-07 season. The Frenchman won the world and European titles last year and, at one point, won four events in a five-week span. At Cup of Russia in 2006, he did three quadruple jumps in one program.
"At the Europeans (last year) I was very tired," Joubert said. "Last season, the mistake was to start too high. The Grand Prix meets, the quad."
He started this year strong again with a win at Skate Canada. But two weeks later, he had to withdraw from Trophee Eric Bompard because of a virus that had sapped his strength. That kept him from qualifying for the Grand Prix final, though he recovered in time to win another French title last month.
"I am still not 100 percent but I feel stronger than the others," Joubert said. "The fact that I have not been beaten in almost two years gives me confidence."
Joubert's last loss was at the 2006 worlds, where he finished second to Lambiel. But he admitted his confidence was shaken a bit when he had trouble landing his quad last week.
"I want to finish the season with two great performances at world and European championships," said Joubert, who is looking for his third European title.
Carolina Kostner is another skater looking to regain her form after winning the European title in 2007. The Italian was third at the GP final, but caught a cold and missed the Italian championships and year-end exhibitions.
She should be challenged by Sarah Meier of Switzerland, who led entering the free program at last year's Europeans before Kostner overtook her. They had third-place finishes at the last two GP finals behind the top Asians, Kim Yu-na of South Korea and Mao Asada of Japan.
In the ice dance, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia are ready even though he had a small operation on his knee following their victory in the GP final. He was back on the ice by Jan. 4.
The Russians dominated the Europeans in 2006, taking all four gold medals. But Domnina and Shabalin are seen as Russia's best chance to win this time.
Defending pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany are the only contenders without major physical problems. They sailed through the season with two Grand Prix wins and the GP final.
The pairs competition ends Wednesday, the same day as the men's short program. The women's final completes the competition Saturday.