CINCINNATI — Considered the world's best freestyle skater since 1984, Brian Orser may finally win the world championship.
Even though he remains in third place after the first two phases of the men's competition, Orser is the favorite to win his first gold medal.
All he has to do in Thursday night's long program at Riverfront Coliseum is skate as well as he did in winning the short program Tuesday night.
"Even I enjoyed watching his short program," said defending champion Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Boitano finished second in the short program to remain in second place behind the Soviet Union's Alexandr Fadeev, who was third in the short program after winning the compulsory figures Monday.
Any of the three skaters can win the championship by finishing first in the long program.
"He's perfect for the short program, so fast, so quick, so exciting," Boitano said of Orser. "It's two minutes, and he's bursting out the whole time."
Orser outskated the United States' Scott Hamilton in the 1984 Winter Olympics, winning both the short and long programs, but the Canadian finished second overall because he was seventh in the compulsory figures.
Since then, Orser, 25, has finished second three times in world championships, losing to Hamilton in 1984, Fadeev in 1985 and Boitano in 1986.
But Orser is in a better position this year than ever before because of the improvement in his compulsory figures.
He improved from fifth in last year's world championships in the figures to third this year. For the first time, he was first in one of the three figures, the paragraph loop.
The figures count toward 30% of the skaters' final score, the short program 20% and the long program 50%.
"I knew before I went out there it was going to be a good performance," Orser said of his short program, which received a standing ovation.
"This is the first time I've been in a position where we're all three in a position to win if we win the long program. I don't need the performance of another skater to boost me up for a change.
"I think it's pretty exciting. I thought we'd all be sitting in this position at this time."
Boitano, 23, said he was pleased with his performance, but he obviously was disappointed with some of the scoring.
He received 5.8s and 5.9s out of a possible 6.0 from all but two of the judges, who each gave him a 5.7 for artistic presentation.
"I thought all the scores would be at least 5.8," he said.
Informed the two judges were a Czechoslovakian and a Soviet, Boitano sarcastically said, "Surprise."
Boitano, the national champion for three straight years, was fourth entering the long program in the world championships last year at Geneva but won when everyone ahead of him, including Orser and Fadeev, skated poorly.
"There's a lot of pressure on me because I'm the world champion," said Boitano, who will attempt to become the first man to complete a quadruple jump, a quadruple toe-loop, in competition Thursday night. He came close at the national championships last month in Tacoma but had to balance himself with his hand when he landed.
"But I like the pressure instead of being the underdog," he said. "I can't help but be happy with myself. There was a time when I would have been unhappy with not winning the short program. But because I skated well, I can say I did my best and to heck with it."