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Steve Springer

Life on Ice Still Suits Fratianne

February 14, 1988|STEVE SPRINGER

For many Olympic athletes, it's not the words of Baron Pierre de Coubertin that ring the loudest, but rather those of Andy Warhol.

It was de Coubertin, a French educator, who officially ushered in the age of the modern Olympic Games, advocating competition to promote understanding and brotherhood among the world's athletes.

It was Warhol, a pop philosopher, who unofficially promoted the age of instant celebrity, advocating that everybody, in turn, be granted fame for 15 minutes.

Sometimes it doesn't even seem to take that long for those touched by the Olympic spotlight--under good circumstances or bad--to fade away.

But what would you expect from an event featuring a lot of sports that are followed by most fans only once every four years for a two-week period? Usually answers to a lot of trivia questions.

Quick now, name me:

A.) The runner who collided with Mary Decker in the Coliseum in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

B.) The woman marathoner who stumbled into the Coliseum that same year, seemingly on the verge of seriously damaging her body.

C.) The spunky little captain of the Do-You-Believe-In-Miracles 1980 gold-medal winning U. S. Olympic hockey team.

For those without total recall, the answers are: A.) Zola Budd, B.) Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, C.) Mike Eruzione.

If you knew that, without sneaking a look at an almanac, you're a fanatic. And you qualify for our bonus question: Name the American who won the silver medal in women's figure skating in the 1980 Winter Games.

Now that should be much easier. You remember Linda Fratianne of Northridge, don't you? That's because she never faded away. She merely switched spotlights, going from the pressure of Olympic competition to the pleasure of professional ice shows.

Fratianne, 27, is beginning her eighth year as a star of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom On Ice. Instead of battling the likes of Dorothy Hamill and Anett Poetzsch, Fratianne now finds herself skating alongside Mickey and Minnie.

But Fratianne certainly doesn't see it as a comedown. On the contrary, it's a way to keep performing in the sport she loves, an opportunity rarely afforded Olympic athletes, especially those in the Winter Games. For most, it's just like Warhol envisioned, 15 minutes and good-bye. After all, there's no Luge Capades, no touring Harlem Bobsledders.

Fratianne couldn't bear the thought of giving up a sport she'd excelled at since first attending a skating party in Tarzana at age nine.

The rewards had come quickly: Victory in international competition at 12, a national and world championship at 16 and another world championship two years later. Before turning 20, she had four national titles to go with the two world championships and an eighth-place finish in the 1976 Olympics prior to her silver-medal performance at Lake Placid.

So why did she give it all up to turn pro so young?

"I was tired of working six to eight hours a day, six days a week," she said by phone from Boston where she is appearing this week. "It was time to move on. I felt I had accomplished all I was going to accomplish as an amateur. And I always wanted to be in a big show on ice."

Fratianne figures she'll probably miss seeing this year's Olympic skating competition in Calgary, even on television, because she'll be working. But even if she were able to watch, she would have trouble relating to a sport that has changed so much, in her eyes, in the relatively short time since she left it.

"The girls now are so much more athletic," she said. "They are doing triple jumps. They are into weightlifting, and training camps that make them so much more knowledgeable about the sport. It's amazing what they are doing now. I just don't know how much further skating can go."

While the physical aspect of the sport seems different, Fratianne has no trouble empathizing with the mental part. That hasn't changed.

"The pressures are just incredible," she said. "All I thought about when I was there was that 10 years of preparation was going to come down to one performance. All the sacrifices my family had made, the desire to come through for my country, all of it. You really have to go through it to realize the pressure."

Her decade of preparation was typical of Olympic athletes. You've heard the story before and you'll hear it again over the next few weeks as attention shifts to a new generation of Olympic hopefuls.

Fratianne would arise at 4:30 a.m. during her years as a young Valley girl, be on the ice at 5:30, skate until 10, then off to private school until 2:30, back on the ice until 6:30, grab a salad for dinner and be in bed by 7:30.

"I had no idea," she said, "what I was getting into, but I had incredible drive as a little girl."

And no regrets.

"I missed a little bit growing up," she said, "but I received so much in return. I've been to Europe 10 times. I've been to Russia and China and seen their culture. No one could ever teach all that to you. I loved it so much."

If Fratianne imagined her work load would decrease by signing up with Disney, she quickly realized she had been living in Fantasyland. Her current schedule calls for nine to 12 shows a week, covering 43 cities in about 44 weeks. She still calls Northridge home, but spends only about two months a year there.

"You eat and breathe the ice show," she said. "You are always preparing. At least in the amateurs, you had an offseason. There was time to go out."

She had only planned to skate professionally for a few years, but here she is, still not willing to face a life off of skates.

"Someday," she said, "I going to have to do something else."

Someday, she made plain, is a long way off. After all, who wants to become the answer to a trivia question?

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