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January 27, 1998|LISA DILLMAN

What: Reflections On Ice: A Diary Of Ladies Figure Skating.

Where: HBO.

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

Even now, the bitterness is palpable.

Cecilia Colledge of Britain still rues the day she wore a silver dress, at the insistence of her mother, for the free skate at the 1936 Winter Olympics, instead of her favorite green satin dress.

"Even gold would have been better," she says. "But to skate for a gold medal and dress your child in silver seems absolutely crazy."

Colledge, who had competed in the 1932 Olympics at 11, finished second in the silver dress in 1936 to the legendary Sonja Henie.

So, warning to Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski: Don't wear a silver dress in Nagano.

Tonight's documentary on HBO offers a rich array of storytelling by the pioneers and trend-setters of figure skating as well as rare footage from the days when competition was held outside.

"Reflections On Ice"--narrated by Susan Saint James and written by Bruce Schoenfeld--is the ideal appetizer for the Olympic Games in Japan.

Plenty is covered in the hour-long special, including interviews with Colledge, Barbara Ann Scott, Carol Heiss Jenkins, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill.

There is even a brief segment on the lost art of skating--school figures. The greats speak about spending hours practicing tracing figures. The inability to excel at the seemingly mundane, yet difficult task, essentially cost American Janet Lynn a shot at Olympic greatness.

The irrepressible Henie, winner of Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936, is reexamined.

A little known fact: At 23, Henie was second in Norway's national tennis tournament, the same year she won her ninth consecutive world figure skating title.

She died in 1969. But one of her contemporaries, Fritzi Burger Russell of Austria spoke about the difficult conditions. The skating venue in 1928 at St. Moritz, Switzerland, was a rink filled with holes, Burger Russell recalled.

Heiss recalled her first meeting with Henie when Heiss was 12, saying: "She looked at me and said, 'Um, so you're Carol Heiss. They say you are going to be a second Sonja Henie.'

"She looked at me, and she said, 'Honey, I'm afraid there's never going to be another Sonja Henie."

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