One little, two little, three little.

Figure skaters gathered at a party here. Dr. Tenley Albright, who won the gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, ran into Bud Greenspan, the TV documentary producer. "Tenley," he said, "Good news, ABC is going to use the spot I did on you before the ladies' competition."

"Oh, God," she replied, "I'll have to call my mother in Boston."

Dorothy Hamill, who won the gold medal four years ago in Innsbruck, Austria, was standing by the buffet, gabbing, when her father approached. "Dorothy," he said, to his 24-year-old daughter, "you must eat." "But I'm not hungry," she said. "I'm not."

"Eat something, Dorothy," he said.

Linda Fratianne, who hopes to win the gold medal Saturday night, was leaning on the bar, pleading with the bartender to make her a Shirley Temple. l"I'm still in training," she said sheepishly.

A reporter advanced to ask 10 minutes of Fratianne's time. "We're not allowed," she said, slightly embarrassed. "You'll have to ask my Mom."


They're everywhere in Lake Placid. At practice, at the rink, in the stands. And why not? As Leah Poulos-Mueller, the speed-skating silver medalist, said, "We wouldn't be here without them."

Sacrafice is one of those words that should be used gingerly, especially in sports. But sometimes it applies.

Being Linda Fratianne's mother is a full-time job. "I'm saturated with skating," said Virginia Fratianne. "I've had enough of going to the rink. I'd like to do something on my own. Maybe real estate, I've taken a class. Not something too confining."

She's had enough confinement. Virginia Fratianne once described herself as a coat stand. She was holding her daughter's warmups, skate bag and sweater at the time. "I hate carrying the skate bag," she said. "But you know her arms are tired, and the legs have to be tired. It isn't because I want to take a part of her life."

Some have described Fratianne as a "skating mother." Now, after driving 75 miles a day, four days a week for 10 years, she is a separated-from-her-husband skating mother.

The question arises: Did she make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter's career?

"I don't know," she said. "The divorce rate in California is 50 percent. Who knows where it all began?

"We've always been people who are into the times . . . probably it was just that . . . But it's a good excuse, it makes everybody feel like a martyr. But I can't say skating did it."

Perhaps, Robert Fratianne felt left out of the competitions, the travel, their lives. "Maybe he did," Fratianne continued. "I felt left out, too, when he went to law school."

What of her daughter? Does Mrs. Fratianne think Linda feels responsible for the breakup, perhaps more so than her other children? "Probably," she said.

"At first, I couldn't accept it," Linda said. "I was kind of surprised. It's part of life."

Tai Babilonia's father Connie, who describes himself as part of "Tai's support group," shephereded their daughter around the world. "I have no regrets on that front," he said. "I'm a big boy. I'm self-sufficient."

Babilonia saw his daughter, and her partner, Randy Gardner, win the world pairs championship last year in Vienna. "I dropped my camera," he said, "which was useless anyway because my eyes were so filled with tears that I couldn't see through the lens."

And last week, when Tai and Randy were forced to withdraw because of Gardiner's injury, "I was a little bleary-eyed," he said.

Lisa-Marie Allen, the other woman in U.S. women's figure skating, was sitting in the stands, surrounded by reporters, between figures during the compulsory competition.

"Where's your mother?" she was asked.

"Over there," she replied, pointing to the other side of the rink.

"How much have you seen her here?

"About 15 minutes," she replied.

Leah Poulos-Mueller and her parents had just watched her husband, Peter, finish fifth in the 1,000-meter speed skating. "Figure skating is a whole different scene," she said. "They're put-on people. You can't just do well on performance. You have to be a sweetie pie so the judges will like you."

But speed-skating parents are involved, too. Leah's father, Sam, is the manager of the Northbrook Speed Skating Club where Leah, and Anne Henning and Shelia Young, learned the sport. He still sharpens his daughter's skates, though it took him three days to get the proper accreditation here to do so. "I threw some language around," he said. "All I wanted to do was be able to take care of my kid's skates."

But Poulos says he never pushed his daughter. "My kids would have told me where to go," he said. "I've seen parents bawl a kid out, "Why the hell didn't you do better?'

"And I've seen kids hold a club over the parent's head, 'If you don't do this, I'll quit,' where it was more important to the parent than the kid.

"All I ever asked was that they do the best they could and satisfy themselves."

Leah's mother Nelda, who describes herself as "just a mom, just like your mom, I'm there," says, "it takes a lot of dedication, a lot of patience on the parents' part. In the U.S., there's only one rink. My husband drove to West Allis six times a week so that Leah could get ice time, 75 miles each way."

Her daughter says it is not easy to be a speed-skating parent. "Whether you start out rich or not, you end up poor. You go without a new car, new furniture, there's a lot of sacrifices you have to make."

And does she feel guilty about asking her parents to make that sacrifice? "Yeah, sure," she said, "every time I look at that piece of junk my dad drives around and calls a car."

Still? "I don't know that you ever get over a feeling like that," she said.

Bill Koch's mother, Nancy, got up at 3 a.m. the day of the 30-kilometer cross country race in order to be in the front row of the stands when the race began. She had not seen her son in a week.

Did she realize her son would be an Olympic athlete when he was younger? "No," she said, "he had a heart murmur."

Mrs. Koch is not into wax. She is not conversant with the nuances of the sport that won Koch a silver medal in Innsbruck. All she knows is that he is behind. When his time at the 10-kilometer mark was flashed on the board, she said, "It's not good, not so good at all."

At the 15-kilometer mark, a reporter asked where Bill expected to be at that point of the race. His mother shrugged. A friend answered the question for her: "Mothers don't know those things," she said.

Late at night, when it got cold in Madison, Wis., Bob Suter's father would flood the backyard so that his son would have ice to skate on. "I'd go out in the wee hours of the morning," said Marlowe Suter, whose son is a defenseman on the U.S. hockey team. "If it was real cold, I'd stay out all night long."

Once, when Bob was 3, his father flooded the garage floor. "It cracked the floor," he said, "but it made really smooth ice."

Hockey also has cracked Bob's legs twice, his teeth once. His tongue has been cut almost in half, and his feet have been cut by skates. "He's had some bruises, some knee problems and some shoulder separations, but it's nothing like football," his father says, sitting at practice, wearing his son's U.S.A. jacket.

"He started out as a little bitty kid with little bruises. When he got bigger he got bigger bruises, but he didn't seem to care."

But his mother does. Delores Suter remembers a game Bob played for the University of Wisconsin, when he took a hard check, went down on the ice "and couldn't move any part of him for eight minutes." He was temporarily paralyzed.

"I ran all the way down there from my seat," she said. "I hardly knew how I got there. When I saw his face, I said, "are you okay?' He shook his head yes.

"They took him off on a stretcher and I went with him into the locker room. I insisted. I was really scared that time."

Bob once played on a local Madison team that included Mark Johnson, the star of the Olympic hockey team, and Eric Heiden, the star of the Olympics. sThe Los Angeles Kings own Suter's draft rights, but his parents would like to see him finish school first.

His father says the Kings "think he's got a shot" and he would like to see Bob take it.

His mother says, "As far as pro-hockey goes, I don't know what my reaction would be, I don't know if I look forward to watching it."