San Jose Mercury News (CA)
March 20, 1996
RIDE COMES FULL CIRCLE
MEMORIES OF EDMONTON
STILL HAUNT SKATER
ANN KILLION column
Edition: Morning Final
Dateline: EDMONTON, Alberta
FATE WASN'T finished with
Rudy Galindo in January. Winning the national championship wasn't simply
about a young man triumphing over adversity in front of a hometown crowd.
It was about closing a circle,
making a peace. Reclaiming a talent that was lost.
So, it seems natural that
fate has guided Galindo back to this bitter Alberta prairie where he spent
some of his most bleak moments. At 26, he's getting a chance to chase all
His sister says this is the
year he became a whole person. This is the year he has become a man. But
six years ago, Galindo was very much a boy, when he sat in his rent-by-the-week
room in Edmonton, and said: ''I'm lost here. I'm out of place.''
He was depressed and lonely.
He was an outsider. He was hanging on for dear life to the best thing he
had - his skating career. The only thing he loved in this harsh winter
city was the Mindbender triple-loop roller coaster inside the West Edmonton
Mall. That his form of amusement was a fitting parable for his erratic
life was an irony lost on him at the time. However, the irony of returning
to Edmonton as conquering hero doesn't escape Galindo now.
This week, Edmonton has adopted
Galindo as one of its own. The tenuous lineage is based on the handful
of weeks he spent in this city during the fall of 1989 and winter of 1990,
training with pairs partner Kristi Yamaguchi at the Royal Glenora skating
club. When he qualified for the world championships Sunday with another
amazingly graceful performance, he brought the crowd to its feet.
''A standing ovation is definitely
better than being depressed, living alone at Tower on the Park,'' Galindo
said afterward, recalling his small rented room.
Edmonton may claim Galindo,
but he isn't reciprocating. His memories of his time here are more of a
penance served than an exciting adventure.
''I remember times Christy
Kjarsgaard forgot to pick me up and I had to walk down the hill from the
Tower on the Park to the Royal Glenora in snow up to my knees,'' he said
Yamaguchi moved to Edmonton
the day after she graduated from high school in 1989 in order to train
with her coach, Christy Kjarsgaard Ness. In December 1989, the pair's coach,
Jim Hulick, died. Galindo traveled back and forth between Edmonton and
the Bay Area to train. Practices were held without a supervising coach.
Rumors of the pair's demise raged throughout the skating world.
''I feel misplaced,'' Galindo
said in 1990. ''I'm not secure. There's nobody to look after us.''
Yamaguchi didn't feel misplaced.
She lived comfortably with Ness. Like a college freshman, she was blossoming,
tasting independence. The Royal Glenora was a skating mecca, and the young
athletes formed a lively social group, busy with dating and parties. The
leader was Kurt Browning, a skater lauded in Canada for his macho skating
and prowess with women.
Galindo, who is gay, felt
ostracized by the social group, uncomfortable in the strange city. Yamaguchi
was evolving without him. He complained to her frequently and made it clear
he wished he was home.
''Everybody had somebody,''
he said this week. ''They had their family here or boyfriends, girlfriends.
Kristi lived with her coach. I was always alone. My family was back in
California, and that was the first time I'd ever been away. . . . It was
just being alone in that apartment all day that was tough.''
The pair fought through the
adversity and won another national title. But by the time they got to the
world championships in Halifax, it was clear where Yamaguchi's future was
Yamaguchi is currently on
tour with Stars on Ice and is difficult to track down. But word among her
peers is that in all the glorification of Galindo, Yamaguchi has somehow
been perceived as the villain. Such a perception is crazy. If any newly
converted Galindo fans are inclined to blame Yamaguchi for their hero's
troubles, don't do it.
Yamaguchi couldn't have physically
competed in both pairs and singles at the elite level - the pressure and
logistics are overwhelming. Yamaguchi and Galindo didn't have the size
difference to break into the top echelon of pairs internationally. In hindsight,
Yamaguchi - who won the Olympic gold medal in 1992 - made the best decision.
She called Galindo to congratulate
him after he won in January. They discussed how strange sudden fame can
be. She told the Chicago Tribune last month how thrilled she was for her
''It's fabulous,'' she said.
''Rudy has waited and paid his dues. He's back on track.''
The graceful skater once
was lost, but now he's found. Back in Edmonton.
Funny thing, fate.
Caption: PHOTO: ANNA MARIE
Rudy Galindo is besieged
by autograph seekers at the World Figure Skating Championships in Edmonton,
PHOTO: ANNA MARIE REMEDIOS-MERCURY
Rudy Galindo gets some encouragement
from his sister, Laura, and coach John Brancato.
Copyright (c) 1996 San Jose