Christopher Bowman, one of the world's best figure skaters, is in Utah for the second time in less than a year, and although he leads the senior men's freestyle in the Pacific Coast Sectionals after one event, Bowman left the ice distraught Thursday night after another glitch.

He seemed off to a perfect start to his original program when the taped music failed twice. He started over and completed the performance unquestionably in first place, but it took him until mid-program to regain the style with which he'd started.That he has to skate the sectional to advance to the national championships at Minneapolis next month is the fault of what happened on his last trip to Utah - the 1990 Nationals.

Bowman suffered back-muscle spasms brought on by a long viral infection and was advised to withdraw only hours before the final event. He went on to place third in the world championships, but he must requalify for nationals because he didn't place here last year.

Bowman is one of 258 skaters in the sectional at Bountiful Recreation Center. He and the other senior men finish tonight at 9 in the freestyle.

Other finals will be held Saturday. Those who place in the top four in novice, junior and senior events qualify for the '91 Nationals. Intermediates will have their own nationals for the first time in late spring.

Novice Eddie Gornik of Utah Figure Skating Club placed fourth in Thursday's freestyle and goes to nationals in two events. He won figures Tuesday. Gornik was surprised to make it in freestyle, "but I felt like I wanted to. It would have felt weird just doing figures (at nationals)," he said.

Since there's no novice worlds, nationals is the highest he can go. "I think of them as kind of like an on-my-way thing; it isn't going to put me anywhere, so there's nothing to lose," said Gornik.

Another hoping to be on his way is Rudy Galindo, who last year was a contender in the World Championships and the national champion in pairs with Kristi Yamaguchi. Also a singles skater, she went to Canada when her coach married and moved there. Long-distance training was a problem for Galindo.

Now Galindo's gone back to singles. He was Junior World Champion and eighth at the 1988 Nationals.

"I didn't want to give up skating," he said. He never considered another partner. "It was kinda like a marriage," he says. But now, "It makes me really nervous out there by myself." The motivation's strong since he's had a taste of things at the top. "I like all that glory," Galindo said.

Galindo stands third behind Bowman and Erik Larsen going into tonight's final program.