Two days ago, Beth Heiden cried, so sad was she over her failures in the Olympics.

Today, the speed skater cried again with a bitter sort of joy when she finally won a medal in her last race -- bronze in the 3,000-meter event won by Bjorg Eva Jensen of Norway.

Then, finally, after telling the assembled world media, "The hell with you guys," Beth Heiden cried again.

The tiny 102-pound woman broke down and fled the Olympic auditorium after telling how her new and unwanted fame had soured her love of skating, killing her fighting spirit and upset her family life.

Eric and Beth Heiden, 21 and 20, brother and sister, both world champions in 1979, have been the delight and sorrow of this Olympics.

While Eric has panned gold, Beth has tasted gall. There are victories worse than defeat, and Beth's Olympic medal today in an event she was favored to win was one of them.

"I'm satisfied . . . I have to be," she said. But she wasn't.

This was supposed to be Beth's day for partial exoneration. If Eric could win three golds, with perhaps two more to come. Beth could at least win one in the 3,000, her favorite distance.

"Eric and I are not competing at the same level," she said. "But I doubt if people understand that."

Beth knew her bad fortune here had remained intanct when, as in the 1,500-meters, the ill luck of the draw placed her in the first pair of the race -- the worst tactical spot.

"What a letdown," she said. Today was a good example of how someone in the first pair has to guess what a winning time will be without seeing anyone skate or knowing the ice conditions. We guessed wrong on what the pace should be and I burned out in the last lap."

Beth Heiden's problems here have gone far beyond bad luck or bad strategy. Exhaustion, anxiety and injury have all combined to drag her down to seventh-, seventh-, fifth-, and third-place finishes after she finished first and second overall in the last two world championships.

"Beth has not the right technique anymore and she has not her old fighting spirit," said Jensen, who raced head-to-head with Heiden and helped lure her into a fast pace before pulling away in the last lap for a 12-meter edge (4:32.13 to 4:33.79), Sabine Becker of East Germany was second in 4:32.79.

"I agree I don't have the same fighting spirit," Heiden said. "I like to skate for myself. This year, I feel like I've been skating for the press. The hell with you guys . . . I'm relieved that I'm finally done." The Soviet Union won the men's cross-country ski relay race, with each of four skiers racing 10 kilometers in a conbined time of 1:57:0.46. Norway won the silver medal and Finland the bronze. The American team, headed by Bill Koch of Guilford, Vt., was third after Koch's first leg but faded to eighth.

World champion figure skater Linda Fratianne of Northridge, Calif., had high medal hopes today after finishing third behind two German skaters in the compulsory figures phase of the women's competition. Anett Potzsch of East Germany held a healthy lead over West German Dagmar Lurz. (Details Page F6.)

As heiden crossed the finish-line this morning, looking wizened and drained, she bent double, her head almost between her knees, and coasted for what has turned into a sad defeat lap as the packed crowd gave her a polite, commiserating hand.

"Something inside of me's going to die," played the soft country music on the rink's system, offering an eerie commentary.

Few ever heard of cover-girl Heiden before this month, so few can be expected to understand her disappointment here. All things considered, she didn't do badly.

First, she nursed an Achilles' tendon strain that hurt when she skated and prevented her from doing the dryland jogging that keeps her muscles from being too tight. That 6-week-old problem has virtually disappeared, but it undermined her conditioning program.

Compounding the physical problem, Heiden is, by all accounts except her own either overtrained or burned out -- take your pick of terms.

"She is overtrained. It's obvious," said Peter Schotting, the U.S. team's coach. "Look at her times. They were best at Christmas. She peaked for the January competitions and even three weeks ago she was just off world-record-times. You can only hold that peak so long, then it's downhill." w

"It's not overtraining, it's just the general burnout of everything we've been through this year," said Coach Dianne Holum. "I was exhausted when we got here."

Finally, Heiden appears to have been unable to cope with the inevitable problems of being a celebrity.

"The real bother started last spring when Eric and I came home (from their world championships)," said Heiden. "All the interviews and charity requests. Is the sport worth all the hassle? You don't have time to skate or be yourself."

Speed skating occupies an insular community -- poor ascetic and proud. A contempt for the large, uncomprehending world is a common trait. "The world championships have always been highest for me, not the Olympics," Beth said again today.

This view, however, is not compatible with worldwide fame, Olympic gold and rich endorsements.

"I didn't realize what some of this meant," she said. "How can you turn down being on the cover of Time? What really made me mad was when it started to get in the way of our family."

Heiden's face changed beneath her floppy stocking cap. Earlier she had said, "Eric and I haven't talked much here."

"What exactly did it do to your family? asked a reporter.

Perhaps all the cross-cutting ironies of that instant finally snapped her confessional mood, Heiden pulled her hat down lower, started to cry, and left. c

The Soviet Union and East Germany were tied in total medals after today's competition with 17. The Soviets led in gold, 8-6.

Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein, who won a silver medal in downhill skiing on Sunday, can keep smiling. She leads the women's giant slalom after the first of two days by .42 of a second over Irene Epple of West Germany (1.14.75).

Austria's downhill winner, gold-hungry Annemarie Moser-Proell, who stands a worrisome seventh (1.15.64) after today's giant slalom, may sleep poorly, while the U.S.'s slumping Cindy Nelson, who is 13th, may as well stay in bed.