Debi Thomas, a 19-year-old sophomore at Stanford University, and Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, Calif., defend their titles in the world figure skating championships starting Monday, with 24 nations represented.
Their primary goal is to collect another gold medal on the long road to the 1988 Olympics at Calgary, Alberta.
Other United States skaters have lesser goals--a top five finish in pairs and at least a bronze medal in ice dancing--to guarantee a full complement of American teams at the Calgary Olympics.
Under international skating rules, nations that place a pair among the top five are permitted to bring three, rather than two, teams to the next international championship, which in this case is the Olympics. But in ice dancing, an American team must win a medal to enable the United States to send three couples to that event in Calgary.
A top five finish in the pairs by either national champions Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., or runners-up Gillian Wachsman and Todd Waggoner of Wilmington, Del., would increase the United States' chances of winning an Olympic medal next year by 50%.
Ice dancers Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory, the 1987 U.S. champs, and Renee Roca and Donald Adair, the 1986 U.S. titlists, needing to win at least one medal between them, face a more difficult battle. Semanick and Gregory, of Wilmington, Del., were fifth last year in the worlds at Geneva, while Roca and Adair, of St. Clair Shores and Woodlawn, Mich., respectively, were sixth.
Thomas faces numerous foes in her attempt to repeat as women's champion. Her chief opponent is East German Katarina Witt, whom Thomas upset last year at Geneva. American teammates Jill Trenary, who took advantage of Thomas's miscues to dethrone her as 1987 U.S. champion, and bronze medalist Caryn Kadavy also have the ability to win the world championship.
Thomas's biggest enemy may be herself. Skating with the pain of tendinitis, she lost her confidence when she fell in the final segment of the national competition, and it was that obvious lack of composure during the rest of her routine that gave Trenary the title.
"It will be harder going to the worlds without the national title," Thomas said, "but it gives me something to work for."
Boitano, 23, has set a goal in addition to repeating as world champion--performing the first quadruple jump in international competition. He completed the four rotations during his free-style U.S. final but ruined the landing by touching a hand to the ice.
Boitano's toughest competition will come from European champion Alexander Fadeyev of the Soviet Union and Canadian Brian Orsen, who has won the world silver medal three straight years.