Linda Fratianne started her last international figure skating competition today with a weak performance in the compulsory figures of the world championships that put her almost out of striking distance of her chief rival, Olympic champion Anett Poetzch of East Germany.
In a near repeat of the start of their Lake Placid duel, the 19-year-old Poetzsch traced arcs and curls of near perfection, taking the first place, while Fratianne, the 19-year-old U.S. star, wobbled and skidded enough for the nine judges to award her a low fourth. To make up the necessary points in the remaining two programs -- the short and the free programs, which together will account for 70 percent of the overall result -- Fratianne will have to flawlessly complete numerous leaps and spins, in spite of a swollen ankle that she is soaking in alternate baths of hot and cold water, and Poetzsch will have to make at least one serious error.
"Linda will appear in all three sections of the championships if she appears in any of them," said her coach, Frank Carroll, before the start of competition today. "I don't want her to drop out after figures with, say, a third- or fourth-place finish, and so let everyone think it's a judging thing.
"I know that (international coach Carlo) Fassi and a lot of the European judges are cliquish and anti-American," he added, shaking his head. "I know Fassi has gotten there judges to find certain flaws in (Charlie) Tickner and Linda that do not exist, but I just want to keep away from it."
Practicing her short program a few hours after the compulsory figures ended, Fratianne took most of her leaps soundly. At times she favored her right ankle, twice kicking up cascades of ice when coming down from a double lutz on the tip, not the blade, of her right skate. But after encouragement from Carroll, Fratianne went back onto the ice and tried the jump three more times, landing in the proper position, flat on her right blade each time.
Fratianne is the defending world champion and finished second at Lake Placid.
Dagmar Lurz of West Germany, second after the compulsories and Claudia Kristofics-Binder of Austria, third, are likely to be overtaken by Fratianne in the next two day's events.
Lurz, a medical student who lives in nearby Cologne, and Kristofics-Binder are known for scoring poorly in the free program. Lurz has announced her plans to retire from skating after these championships.