DENVER -- Brian Boitano isn't thinking about history or the Olympics. He has much more personal goals.

"My performances are based on what I can do to be my best, to satisfy myself that I am doing as much as I can," said Boitano, who goes after a fourth straight U.S. figure skating championship this week. "I have the reputation as a strong technical skater, so the only person I have anything to prove something to is myself.

"I could continue to go out and do what I've been doing and not try to stretch myself or do something different. If I did that, I would feel less than myself."

That's why Boitano will continue carrying a quadruple jump in his long program. The quad has never been landed in competition, although Boitano has come close. He just missed it at last year's U.S. championships.

"Whether the jump is successful or not on a particular night will not make that much difference in the results," Boitano said. "But, succeed or miss, I will have tried, and that is what is most important to me."

Boitano, who won the 1986 world championship, then finished second to Canada's Brian Orser last year, comes off one of his most sensational performances. At the Novarat Trophy competition in Budapest, where the world championships will be held in March, Boitano was an easy winner. He had four perfect 6.0 marks in the short program and three more for his long.

"He was doing almost his full Olympic routine, too," said Linda Leaver, Boitano's coach for 16 years. "Brian is trying for a mental and physical gradual buildup {to the Olympics}. He's right on target."

Aiming for Boitano, but unlikely to reach him this week, are Chris Bowman, Scott Williams, Danny Doran, Paul Wiley and, possibly, world junior champion Todd Eldredge. They will scramble for the remaining two Olympic berths.

Debi Thomas, who lost her crown to Jill Trenary last year, is favored to regain the women's title. Caryn Kadavy, who like Trenary is a pupil of Carlo Fassi, the coach who guided Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill to Olympic gold, is the other leading U.S. woman.

Trenary has not skated nearly as well since her upset victory at Tacoma, Wash., last winter. Kadavy was third behind Katarina Witt of East Germany and Thomas at the 1987 world event.

Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, the 1985 and '87 national champions and third in the world last year, are favored in pairs. They are considered the first U.S. pair with a legitimate gold medal shot in the Olympics since Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.

Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory are the defenders in dance. Susan Wynne and Joseph Druar will push them, as might Renee Roca and James Yorke. Roca won the U.S. title in 1986 with Donald Adair, who has retired.

The spotlight, however, will be on Boitano and his quad.

"The barriers, or horizons of every sport are expanding," he said, "and figure skating is no exception. The technical aspects of the sport have improved rapidly in recent years and will continue to. Whether it's done by me or someone else, the quad will happen. I feel it will be a part of all important performances in a matter of a few years."

Boitano knows he needs it this year. Orser will be skating in his home country as world champion, a major advantage. Orser also is more flamboyant.. Landing the quad might be the difference between gold and silver Olympic medals.