It was the double lutz every time. The first time the crowd groaned; the second time the coach clutched her throat.The third time that 11-year-old Cathy DiMassimo tried the double spin, she ended up in the same position sprawled on the ice.

An hour later, as cameras clicked and parents applauded, DiMassimo bowed proudly. The Vienna skater had just been awarded the silver metal in the ladies' intermediate competition of the Mount Vernon Summer Invitational.

"I was too tight and rotating too quickly," explained the pixie-like DiMassimo, cuddling her goodluck teddy bear, "but that's okay, because if you want to skate, you've just got to skate your hardest."

While most Washingtonians were devising ways to beat the 100-degree heat on a recent Saturday, more, than 50 youngsters from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Washington area kept their cool as they competed at the Mount Vernon Park District ice skating rink in Alexandria.

Sponsored by the Washington Figure Skating Club, the contest was open to any youngster willing to trace figures or leap across the alabaster-like surface. Participants were divided into two categories: those who had not passed figure skating tests, and those who had.

Although meet sponsors said the invitational was merely to prepare young skaters for future competition, most skimmed the ice with gold -- Olympic gold -- on their minds.

"I want to be the best and win at the "Olympics," confided DiMassino, "I want to be like Linda Frattiane (silver medalist in the 1980 Olympics)."

DiMissimo's road to the gold is arduous and dedicated. She skates two or three hours each day, and twice a week she and her mother get up at 3:45 a.m. to get to lessons.

"We used to say that neighbors who brought their kids swimming every mourning were crazy, and now we're doing the same thing," laughed Jamie DiMassimo. The DiMassimos, who have nine children, work three jobs and spend more than $5,000 a year to keep Cathy in skates and on ice.

"I guess we're crazy, but we just like to see her enjoy herself," DiMassimo says with a shrug. "The sacrifice is worth it."

For some, the sacrifice takes more than wealth or time. Propped up next to his dancing partner, 14-year-old Jim Hurd of Fairfax was wrapping his arm in an Ace bandage. Earlier, he had torn a tendon while lifting his sister, and he had temporarily removed the bandage to compete in the pairs competition.

"My doctor told me if he caught me ice dancing again, not to come back. I'm not going back," Hurd said. "I would have to break both my legs before I stopped skating."