Skating on top of the world.

Author:Ledsom, Mark

Swiss figure skater Stephane Lambiel became a national hero last month at the age of just 19 when he leapt over some of the sport's biggest names to win gold at the world championships in Moscow. Here, he speaks to Swiss News about his new title, its likely effect on his life, and his plan to avenge his neighbours in Sion at next year's Winter Olympics.

It's probably not a word that's used too often in figure skating circles, but when Stephane Lambiel flew into Geneva airport last month with a world championship gold medal hanging around his neck, the boy was clearly knackered.

Arriving from Russia with almost too much love, Switzerland's slightly-built sporting hero threw himself gamely into hug after hug--throwing smiles and autographs respectively at a mass of photographers and fans, while all the time trying to cope with a growing pile of presents, homemade cakes and figure skating's ubiquitous soft toys.

The boisterous reception added to what Lambiel called "the most beautiful week of my life" but at a hastily organised press conference--still at the airport--he said that his only immediate plan was "to get home, shower, and sleep--a lot."

Not the best time for an interview, then. But in return for an early night, Lambiel was happy to invite Swiss News along with him the next day as he drove from his flat in Lausanne up to his boyhood home of Saxon, where a crowd of more than 5,000 people was preparing for another loud welcome party.

Joy ride

"Last night was crazy," a much more wakeful Lambiet grins as we meet again outside his flat in a modest apartment block close to Lausanne's railway line. "It wasn't really until I got home and had some quiet time that I could start to take in what I achieved in Moscow."

The morning newspapers are showcasing the achievement. One carries a photo of Lambiel's celebrations for downloading onto mobile phones--along with the more familiar "wallpaper" shots of David Beckham, Anna Kournikova or Michael Schumacher.

"I've been so surprised by it all, because in Moscow I could just walk around the city and nobody was really interested," Lambiel says as he checks out the page. "The airport was such a shock after that. I was very happy with what they wrote about me, so it's all been very, very special."

It is perhaps unsurprising that Lambiel is enjoying his press coverage right now, with praise for his passionate, intricate and athletic skating being heaped upon him by observers both within and without the...

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