Nancy Swider skated around the Olympic outdoor rink here today, water welling up in her eyes. Perhaps it was the sting of the wind. More likely, it was tears.

"Four years of my life up in smoke," the 23-year-old speed skater said. "This is as close to the Olympics as I'm going to get."

Swider, you see, missed making the starting lineup of the U.S. juggernaut team by one-thousandth of a second.

In any nation, and on any team, except the U.S. speed skating team, Swider would be a national heroine now.

By any standard, Swider is one of America's best athletes among Winter Olympians.

The public will hear many a flowery tale in the next two weeks about the U.S.'s doughty biathloners, ice dancers and bobsledders -- few of whom have much of a chance of winning a medal.

Swider, on the other hand, once held the world record in the 3,000 meters. Twice, she has finished 11th in the World All-Arounds. At the World Sprints, she has been fifth.

And, at the '76 Olympics, before she reached her peak, Swider took a seventh place.

But those 10 distinguished years in speed skating will get her absolutely nothing, because in the U.S. team trials last month she failed to make the three-woman squad in the 3,000 meters by .001 of a second.

The U.S. speed skaters -- Swider's buddies for years -- are planning a festival this Olympics. With 27 medals up for grabs, this compact team has an outside chance to win more gold medals, and more overall medals, than any nation in the world wins in the entire Winter Games.

"If we could enter five for six racers in every event," Swider said, "we would win even more medals, because no skating team in history has ever been anywhere near this deep.

"It's impossible to know which person will be hot on what particular day."

So, in fairness, the U.S. team, after a year of face-to-face friendly training in West Allis, Wisc., must have cut-throat face-to-face trials to see who makes the team and who sits.

Willie Davenport, Olympic hurdles medalist turned bobsledder, set another career precedent today; he was the lone male athlete in an otherwise all-female fashion show.

Attired in the cap and the red, white and blue jump suit he will wear as a member of the United States No. 1 four-man bobsled team, the 36-year-old veteran Olympian from Baton Rouge, La., brought down the house at the very proper Lake Placid Club.

A roomful of women gasped when Davenport, concluding his stroll on the runway with a pretty model in a bathing suit, picked up the young lady and carried her down the steps.

Tickets to the XIII Winter Olympiad are selling for $10-$10,000, but no matter what price a tourist pays, one thing is certain; he won't get in without one.

A $10 ticket gets a spectator through the gate only long enough to watch athletes train before their event. A $10,000 fee buys a gold card, an entree to all events during the two-week sports spectacular.

In between, visitors are pluning down $20 to $60 per event at authorized ticket outlets and much more to scalpers and tour operators who hadn't sold out as the first competitions started.

Several Norwegian newspapers have criticized what they call organizational chaos, poor accomodations and commercial exploitation of visitors.

"The Olympic area is full not only of flags and colorful posters, but of frozen visitors waitng either in vain or in restless agony for transportation," said Leif Huseby, sports editor of Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper. s

"The organization committee claims things will get better tomorrow. They have said so for months. No one believes them any more," Huseby said.