Tim Goebel seems almost unemotional about having won a bronze medal last February at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
"I go to the rink and train the same way now I did last year and the year before that," said Goebel, who stores his prize in a case beneath his bed, tucked into an Olympic backpack.
"I just don't feel any different. The only thing I see that's different is my main goal in skating has always been to win an Olympic medal. I've accomplished that. I've checked it off the list."
But Goebel, 22, hasn't lost his zeal for competing -- or for making history. After becoming the first skater to land a quadruple salchow at the Olympics and the first to land three quadruple jumps in a program at the Games, he plans an unprecedented four quads in his long program at the U.S. figure skating championships.
Hampered by pulled hip muscles and tendinitis early this season and forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix series, Goebel didn't have time to polish the routine he performed last month in finishing third at the Crest Whitestrips competition in Auburn Hills, Mich. Instead, he has recycled his "American in Paris" Olympic long program, modified to include a second quadruple toe loop in place of a second triple axel.
"Because of everything I was able to accomplish last year, if I didn't feel the same about coming back and skating through the season I would have stopped skating amateur," said Goebel, the first male U.S. Olympic medalist to compete in the next year's national championships since 1968 Grenoble silver medal winner Tim Wood won the 1969 U.S. title. "Because once it becomes a job or something that I don't enjoy doing anymore, I won't be able to do it as well."
The men's and women's competitions begin today at American Airlines Center with the short program and end Saturday with the long program. The U.S. can send three women and three men to the World Championships in March in Washington, and Goebel intends to be there.
"Just getting here and being healthy and well-trained is good enough," he said. "I don't have any expectations except to get on the world team. Winning the national title is really not my goal. I just want to skate well."
Goebel won the 2001 U.S. men's title a few months after he left coach Carol Heiss and his Cleveland rink to work with Frank Carroll at HealthSouth training center in El Segundo. He was second to Todd Eldredge last year at Staples Center, but Eldredge has relinquished his Olympic eligibility.
According to Michael Weiss, who won the 1999 and 2000 U.S. men's titles and finished one spot ahead of Goebel at the Crest competition, four successful quads might be difficult to match but won't guarantee victory.
"At Cleveland [in the 2000 U.S. championships] he landed three quads, the first time anybody landed three quads, and he didn't win," said Weiss, who plans two quads in his long program. "Quads are important, obviously, but they're not it. Tim landed three quads at the Olympics and [Alexei] Yagudin and [Evgeny] Plushenko didn't land three and they ended up ahead of him.
"I'm not sure one more quad, though it would be incredible, would make a difference."
Goebel's hip injury, caused by overuse, kept him off the ice for two weeks. He was frustrated until he realized the break might refresh him and enable him to keep up with his business studies at Loyola Marymount.
"It was nice to be out of the competitive atmosphere for a while," he said, "and really, I had such a long season last year and then toured. After the tour I took a week and a half off. I didn't have enough time mentally to get it back together."
His hip no longer bothers him, he said, and he has trained well the last six weeks.
Nonetheless, his hopes are as modest as they were before the Olympics, where he became the first U.S. man to win a singles medal since Paul Wylie's superb silver medal-winning performance at Albertville, France, in 1992.
"I have other goals. There are a lot of things I want to accomplish in skating," he said. "Certainly, to go back to the Olympics in Torino in 2006 and be back on the podium. I just want to get through this year. Being injured, I don't have high expectations for this season....
"I never go into an event expecting to win. I just come in, show up well-trained and hope things fall the way I want them to."
Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn of Newark, Del., second at last year's U.S. championships, staked a claim to their first pairs title Wednesday with a vibrant short program that won first-place votes from all nine judges.
Stephanie Kalesavich and Aaron Parchem are second, with Larisa Spielberg and Craig Joeright third.
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. of Santa Monica, who had problems with their side-by-side jumps and the unison on their camel spins, are fifth.
Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler of Manhattan Beach are eighth and Baldwin's brother, Don, teamed with Jacqueline Matson to rank 15th.
In ice dancing, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto won the second phase of the three-part event and passed four-time champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev.
The last phase is Friday.