Oh, did she try. In her favorite red dress, throwing in spontaneous ballet kicks, and bringing the crowd to its feet with a final burst of three successive butterflies, Linda Fratianne skated the finest she knew how, in what was probably the last amateur performance of her career.
"Super," screamed Frank Carroll, her coach, from the side, almost tearing the sleeves off his thick fur coat in excitement. "Super," he yelled again, embracing her at the finish, the two hugging and turning and grinning.
Super, no doubt. And even more so because she knew before the start that her task was impossible to fulfill. No catching of East German Anett Poetzsch, no reversal of Olympic disappointments, not even a second place for good measure -- though she missed only by a single judge's vote. Just an exuberant four-minute dance that flowed and swirled, and two super triples she hadn't dared to try in ages. And a figurative laugh in the face of all the scoffers who said she had no artist in her at the core.
Despite outscoring Poetzsch tonight, Fratianne could not overcome the poor marks she received in the compulsory figures on Thursday. Only a fall by Poetzsch could have opened a chance. But the East German, despite looking a bit wobbly at times, kept to a program as safe as could be, forgoing all thought of a triple jump and only throwing in a little flashy footwork when it became clear she was going to win.
The final result has Poetzsch first with 12 ordinals and 188.38 points, Dagmar Lurz, the hometown hero, second with 23 ordinals and 186.22 points and Fratianne third, with 22 ordinals and 187.84 points. Although having fewer ordinals than Lurz, Linda had fewer second-place votes.
In an ironic addendum to the finish, Jacques Favart, president of the International Skating Union chose this evening to say, "The compulsory figures must die. They are a waste of time, and prevent the skaters from being still more creative."
If his view is accepted at the next ISUS meeting at Davos in June, in any future figure skating championship, tonight's results would have put Fratianne over Poetzch.
Fratianne's right ankle, which had been swollen and sore since Lake Placid, did not give her as much trouble in tonight's four-minute program as had been feared. She landed soundly and confidently after every jump, making both a triple toe-loop and a triple-salchow after having soaked the ankle in cold water this afternoon.
All of which came in triumphant contrast to yesterday's timid performance in the short program, when Fratianne took her combination with a relatively easy double-salchow, double-loop.