LANDOVER, Md. (AP) _ Although he hasn't been a pro skater long, Rudy Galindo is learning fast.

For instance, he already knows that in professional skating competitions, it's probably more important to win over the fans than the judges. And that's just what he'll be trying to do Saturday night at the World Professional Figure Skating Championships.

``It's fun to compete,'' Galindo said after practice Thursday at USAir Arena. ``But for me, I'm going to treat it like another show. In the professionals, the judges are going to put whomever they want on top. That's one of the things I've noticed.''

Unlike the tense, cut-throat world of the Olympics and other Olympic-eligible events, the pro circuit is driven by television dollars, and TV wants popular skaters, popular routines and popular winners, sometimes at the expense of credible judging.

The skaters, knowing where their paychecks are coming from, play along by maintaining a skating-family atmosphere. Backstage, they trade friendly banter as if they were a traveling show troupe instead of top-line competitors.

``For instance, we all go out to dinner after a practice,'' Galindo said. ``In the amateur world, you don't out to dinner with your competitors.''

Even with the more relaxed atmosphere, Galindo found the going tough in his pro debut seven weeks ago. Nervous and tentative, he placed fourth among five skaters at the U.S. Pro Championships in Albany, N.Y., in October.

``I didn't do too well. I just didn't have fun like I did before,'' Galindo said. ``I just have to make sure I have fun and not worry about those seven judges. I have to block them out. Before I was able to do that. Now I just have to do that again, just say I don't care what they think.''

Galindo was the 1996 national champion on the Olympic level, but says he has no regrets about turning pro and thus missing a shot at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. His long program on Saturday will be to ``Babaloo'', a repeat of the one he did in New York, but his short program will be to ``Ave Maria'' instead of ``On Golden Pond.''

``Watching professional competitions, I got tired of every week seeing the same stuff over and over,'' Galindo said. ``For each one I want to do something different.''

Galindo will skate against Viktor Petrenko, Brian Boitano, Paul Wylie and defending champion Kurt Browning at Saturday night's event, which is sponsored by NutraSweet. Upset 1995 winner Yuka Sato will defend her women's title against Caryn Kadavy, Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt and Ekaterina Gordeeva.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are back to defend the dance crown, while Czech duo Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny are the returning pairs titlists.