San Jose Mercury News (CA)
January 21, 1996
SULTRY, STUNNING FINALES
KWAN RISQUE, GALINDO DAZZLING IN CAPTURING GOLD STORYBOOK: HOMETOWN CROWD
EMBRACES ITS CHAMP
JODY MEACHAM, Mercury News
Edition: Morning Final
Rudy Galindo did it.
He took his career into his
own hands, the hometown crowd into his heart and skated a long program
that left the judges no choice but to award him the U.S. Figure Skating
Championship on Saturday.
He is the first Mexican-American
to win it and, at 26, the oldest champion since 51-year-old Chris Christenson
in 1926. Galindo is the first man to win national titles in pairs and singles
since Ken Shelley in 1972. Galindo's pairs titles came with Kristi Yamaguchi,
in 1989 and 1990.
Even James Disbrow of Minneapolis,
one of the two judges who ranked him second in the long program, couldn't
help but grant the crowd's demand for a perfect 6.0 for the artistic mark,
one of two 6.0s Galindo earned.
Baryshnikov would have been
proud of this ''Swan Lake.''
It had eight triple jumps,
two more than any other man in the competition could land. It had two triple-triple
combinations, including a triple Axel-triple toe loop to open. All were
performed without a discernible flaw.
Every jump seemed to add
to his confidence. With two triples to go, he was already waving to the
crowd. Going into his last spin, he was cheering himself.
And when it was over, Galindo's
weren't the only tears that flowed at San Jose Arena. Ten thousand, eight
hundred sixty-nine screaming fans saw it in person, but it was the kind
of breakthrough performance in this sport that in years to come, those
who said they were there will number in the hundreds of thousands.
''I think it's probably the
greatest upset that I've seen since I've been around,'' said Morry Stillwell,
president of the U.S. Figure Skating Association and a 30-year veteran
judge and official in the sport.
There could have been no
more unlikely a champion than Galindo, who four months ago was helping
his coach/sister Laura teach young skaters lessons at the Ice Centre of
San Jose during more than a half-year out of competition. His reputation
in the sport as a solo skater never approached Yamaguchi's.
As much as reputation and
toeing the line count in this sport, Galindo generated through the years
a maximum of enmity from those in the USFSA whose support he supposedly
He blamed judges for bad
marks. He wore the ''wrong'' costumes. He grew a beard. He flaunted his
He also fell a lot.
''I've had skaters say to
me, 'Well you just don't like me,' '' Stillwell said. ''I'd say, 'Yeah,
I like you, but you fell down three times.' So I don't think there's anything
there. As to the gay issue, you know that. He never talked to me on the
issue. I don't know whether to say it's an issue that's ignored. I'm sure
it's probably discussed, but it's, again, not something that judges and
officials have much interest in. The pressure that's on the judge in competition
is to get it right.''
(Galindo has never publicly
acknowledged being gay, but he discusses his homosexuality in a recently
published book, ''Inside Edge,'' by Christine Brennan of the Washington
Galindo's best previous finish
at the nationals was a fifth in 1993, and his only international title
was at the 1994 Vienna Cup, a low-level event with a poor field.
But the planets began lining
up for Galindo days ago.
With practice sessions for
this year's nationals at the same rink where the Galindos teach, he missed
nary a jump all week. Rehearsing his long program in a solid black outfit
much like the one in which he competed, he would toss his gloves over the
boards to spectators before beginning the combination spin in the middle
of his program.
He nailed his short program
Thursday night, his first clean short in national competition since he
began his career as a singles skater in 1992. It placed him third entering
the final, and his highest hope was that he could hold onto that spot and
the last berth on the world-championships team.
Victory, though, was not
in anyone's mind.
Todd Eldredge and Scott Davis
were ranked 1-2 above Galindo going into the long program. Eldredge has
three national titles, two world-championship medals and one trip to the
Olympics. Davis has two U.S. championships and competed in the Lillehammer
Davis crumpled, finishing
fifth in the long program after landing just two triple jumps. Eldredge,
skating for the first time in competition to music from the ''First Knight''
movie soundtrack, did five triples but not a single triple-triple combination.
It was good enough for second place and two first-place rankings.
Third went to Dan Hollander,
fourth in the short program, who hit seven triple jumps, including a triple-triple.
''It still feels like a dream,''
Galindo said shortly after his skate. ''Yesterday, I just had this feeling,
like I was psychic or something, that I was going to do a clean long. For
the past week, I could visualize the crowd standing and me getting off
''I can't describe this moment
right now, it means so much to me.''
It was sweeter, he said,
than his championships in pairs.
''I did it on my own.''
No one could dispute that.
PHOTO: JIM GENSHEIMER - MERCURY
Men's champion Rudy Galindo
clearly gained confidence as his program went along.
PHOTO: JIM GENSHEIMER - MERCURY
One longtime judge said
Rudy Galindo's win was the greatest upset she'd ever been around.
Copyright (c) 1996 San Jose
to Rudy In Print