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Goebel, Eldredge Are Locked in a Rare Tie


Tim Goebel skated an imperfect short program and still managed to tie Todd Eldredge for the lead after the first phase of the men's competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Imagine what Goebel could do if he masters his full repertoire of technical tricks tonight, when the men perform their long programs at Staples Center. The results will determine the three U.S. men's Olympic berths for the Salt Lake City Winter Games.

"Going into the long, I wanted to skate as clean as possible," said Goebel, who pulled off a difficult quadruple-triple combination jump but stumbled on the easy footwork section during Tuesday's short program.

"I've had some good programs with three quads. I'm just pleased to be in the top three going into the long and I want to go in and give it my best shot."

The tie was the first since the U.S. championships adopted the present competition format in 1991, after compulsory figures were abolished. Goebel, who has trained in El Segundo for the past 18 months, and five-time U.S. champion Eldredge each won four first-place votes, three second-place votes and two third-place votes from the nine-judge panel.

The remaining first-place vote went to Matt Savoie, who is third. Johnny Weir is fourth, ahead of two-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss.

Any of the top three can earn the title by winning the long program, worth two-thirds of the final score.

Goebel, who will perform his program to "American in Paris," was in good humor after getting marks of 5.5 (out of 6.0) to 5.8 for his required elements Tuesday despite his stumble. "With the fall, in the short program, that's a deduction of 0.1," he said. "Those marks would have been higher if I hadn't splattered across the ice."

It was hardly a splatter, but the key was he recovered quickly and finished his program well.

"It's not the perfect skater that wins, it's the best skater," his coach, Frank Carroll, said.

Eldredge, who didn't attempt a quad in the short program, said he plans to perform a quadruple toe loop in his "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack. However, he has the luxury of waiting until almost the last second to make his decision. He will skate 17th among the 18-man field, before only Weir. Goebel will skate 16th.

"It would be great to win," said Eldredge, who was 10th at the 1992 Albertville Olympics and fourth at the 1998 Nagano Games. "It's great to win anytime, whether it's your first, second, third, whatever."

Savoie, of Peoria, Ill., was third at last year's national competition but didn't compete at the world championships because the U.S. was allotted only two berths. He battled a groin injury for much of this season.

"This is only the third or fourth competition I've done this year," he said, "and I usually have six or seven."

Because he hasn't had the time or fitness level to be sure he can do a quad consistently, he won't try one tonight. "That's basically the first clean short [program] I've done all year," he said.

Even a clean program might not be enough for Weiss to move up to third place. He fell on his combination jump and two-footed the landing of his required triple axel, earning a 4.8 and a 4.9 among his required elements. His presentation scores were 5.7s and 5.8s, but they weren't enough to lift him on a night Savoie and Weir skated cleanly.

"I did everything perfect all day. Go figure," he said. "It's time to get it back in the long program and hold back nothing and do it all."

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