Ex-Olympians team up for the fun of it

Former Olympic figure skaters Stephane Lambiel and Shizuka Arakawa, right, work out with artistic director Lea Ann Miller at the Municipal Ice Rink in Norwich on Monday. Lambiel, the 2006 men's silver medalist, and Arakawa, the 2006 women's gold medalist, are among 10 skaters who will perform in the
Former Olympic figure skaters Stephane Lambiel and Shizuka Arakawa, right, work out with artistic director Lea Ann Miller at the Municipal Ice Rink in Norwich on Monday. Lambiel, the 2006 men's silver medalist, and Arakawa, the 2006 women's gold medalist, are among 10 skaters who will perform in the "Thin Ice" competition at MGM Grand at Foxwoods that will be aired live on ABC on Friday and Sunday.

In the Olympics, Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel and Japan's Shizuka Arakawa skate as singles - Lambiel says he's a little small to be lifting a partner, while Arakawa says she's too tall for her male counterparts.

But the two now-retired Olympians are learning to skate as a team - with fun, hip-hop moves thrown in - for a reality skating competition called "Thin Ice," which will air on ABC on March 19 and 21.

Since the show is being filmed in the Premier Ballroom of the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, the pair of skaters came to the Norwich ice rink to rehearse Monday.

"It's so different, you know. When I compete for the Olympics I have rules, I need to do all the elements of my program," Lambiel says. "And here, it's about fun, it's about dancing on the ice."

Lambiel, who placed fourth in men's singles at the recent Vancouver games and won silver in 2006, and Arakawa, who earned a gold in women's singles in 2006, are now retired from the sport. But working with hip-hop choreographer Hi Hat, they transformed the dance moves into an ice routine.

"Figure skating is a sport but it's also an expression of yourself," Lambiel says. "It's like dancing. There is beautiful, classical ballet and there is incredible hip-hop … so you can really do the same on the ice."

The pair will compete against other couples, all of whom will be judged by former figure skaters including Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi and Dick Button.

"I hope," Lambiel says, "that all the crowd is standing up and dancing with us."

k.warchut@theday.com

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