Boitano in Place for USA's First Gold

By Steve Woodward



CALGARY - Figure skater Brian Boitano has positioned himself to become the USA's first gold medal winner of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

He leads the pack on the basis of placing second in both the compulsories and Thursdays short program.

Canada's Brian Orser won the short program, setting up Saturday's Battle of the Brians for the gold.

Boitano, 25, of Sunnyvale, Calif., who was outscored by his Canadian rival on the cards of seven of nine judges, skated after both Orser and Soviet Alexandr Fadeev, who had finished first in compulsories.

Skating to the musical selection "Les Patineurs" (The Skaters), Boitano fired off his trademark "Tano" triple jump 19 seconds into his program, later nailing a triple-double jump combination. He received one score of 5.9 for both technical and artistic quality.

"As a program, it's one of the best I've ever done. There were elements that could have been sharper," said Boitano.

Orser, punctuating his routine with a dramatic triple-double jump combination midway through, received technical merit scores of 5.8 from seven judges, and 5.9 presentation marks from all but two judges.

'This was probably my best program I ever skated in competition," Orser said. "After I was finished, I had a tremendous feeling of relief."

Fadeev botched his AM triple jump of the night and was placed ninth. Fadeev, third overall, was plagued by technical merit scores ranging from 5.0 on the low end to 5.5.

Christopher Bowman, 20, of Van Nuys, Calif., was fifth in short program and is seventh overall. Denver's Paul Wylie, 23, who replaced Bowman as No. 2 skater at last month's US. Championships, is 11th overall after placing eighth Thursday.

Short program competition accounts for 20% of each skater's total score. Saturday's long program event is worth 50%.

Said Boitano of Saturday's showdown with Orser and Fadeev: "We're all tied as far as I'm concerned. That's the only way to look at it"