The school figures, the least glamorous part of the Olympic's glamor event, had just ended and Linda Fratianne was third, and disappointed. She and her coach skittered onto the ice, racing the Zamboni ice-clearing machine, to the paragraph loops that had been traced in the ice by the top three competitors.

They did not want the evidence destroyed. Evidence, they say, that showed the traces of politics in figure-skating judging.

There was no quarrel with the marks that put Anett Potzsch of East Germany, Fratianne's chief competition, in first. The marks that placed Dagmar Lurz of West Germany ahead of Fratianne were another matter.

Lurz's loop was bad, Fratianne said. "I went out and saw myself," she said. "Her second circle was very short and fat and a little off axis. My second loop was a little tilted, but, overall, I thought it was better."

"It was better," came the echo, from her coach, Frank Carroll, standing across the room.

The school figures are an acquired taste, elegant in an arcane sort of way. But they also count for 30 percent of the final scores. That's why Carroll was upset.

"It turned out exactly the way I had said it would months and months ago," Carroll said. "They put two German girls ahead of her to make it hard for her to catch them."

"They (the Middle European judging bloc) used Lurz as a buffer to separate them (Fratianne and Potzsch)," Carroll claimed. "They separate them first to third. If Linda misses something in the short program (Thursday afternoon), it makes it more difficult to overcome."

The nine-judge panel includes judges from East and West Germany, as well as Yugoslavia and Austria, all of whom scored Lurz higher on the paragraph loop, the last of the three required figures, than Fratianne.

"Americans don't have any allies on the panel," Carroll said. "Either they do it or they don't."

Potzsch, who is "a very good figure skater," according to her coach, Jutta Muller, finished first with nine ordinals. That means that each of the nine judges placed her first. Lurz finished second with 20 ordinals and Fratianne third with 26. By virtue of a very complicated scoring system, this puts Lurz ahead of Fratianane by one point and Anett ahead by four, which is a lot." Carroll said. "She's got a good lead."

Emi Watanabe of Japan was fourth after the figures. Lisa-Marie Allen of Colorado Springs, who described the competition as nerve-wracking, was eighth. Sandy Lenz, of Rockford Ill., skating in her first international competition, was 11th.

Fratianne, who was in the same position when she won the world championship last year in Vienna, says she tries to "block out the judging here" and "skate as well as I can. Wherever the judges put me, they put me. There's nothing I can do about that.

"It's all in God's hands now."

Fratianne is the best hope, perhaps the only hope, of an American gold medal in skating, in the wake of the withdrawal of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in the pairs and Tuesday's disappointing performance by Charlie Tickner. That's pressure.

Still, Fratianne says she is "more confident now than at the nationals," where she finished first overall, though second in the free style.

Fratianne is generally considered a better free skater than Potzsch. Potzsch's coach said, "She is in very good form. She was very good in Europe (where she won the European championships last month). She is in a good position for hard fighting for the gold medal."

Carroll said, "if Anett free skates well, and does an adequate job, she'll probably win the championship. But that's not her history. She is inconsistent and uninspired. Whereas when Linda's on, she can turn it on and be smashing."

The only problem is that Fratianne also has a history, a history of turning audiences off by not turning them on.

She can't afford any more short circuits.