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Galindo hits jackpot with hall of fame induction

Barrier-breaking skater now giving back to sport as coach

Rudy Galindo stands on the podium after his greatest triumph, his victory at the 1996 U.S. Championships in San Jose, Calif.
Rudy Galindo stands on the podium after his greatest triumph, his victory at the 1996 U.S. Championships in San Jose, Calif. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(12/19/2012) - Last week, Rudy Galindo's former pairs partner, Kristi Yamaguchi -- whose daughter Galindo coaches -- reminded him that Dec. 17 was the day the latest inductees to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame would be announced. He tried not to pay any attention.

"I try to keep it low key, no big deal," Galindo said. "I didn't want to get my hopes high."

On Monday morning, Galindo's phone kept ringing while he was teaching morning lessons, but he thought the unfamiliar East Coast number was a telemarketer, so he let it go to voicemail. Finally, after several calls, he decided to answer.

It was Larry Mondschein, chair of the hall of fame's nominating committee, bearing good news.

"At first, I was like, 'Oh, OK, how exciting,'" Galindo, 43, said. "Then it hit me, and I was walking around like I just won this huge prize, which I did. I was running around my loft saying, 'I won! I won!' It finally hit me."

After calling U.S. Figure Skating for a quick interview, Galindo phoned his sister and former coach, Laura Galindo-Black, who shared her brother's excitement.

"I'm just so proud of him, that he's finally acknowledged for who he is as an artist and what he contributed to the world of figure skating," Galindo-Black said. "He crossed so many lines and barriers. I think he's the perfect person to be honored."

Galindo is not the only person to win U.S. titles in both pairs and men's, but he is the only skater to win world junior titles in both disciplines. En route to his greatest triumph -- winning the men's title at the 1996 U.S. Championships in his hometown of San Jose, Calif. -- Galindo endured economic hardships and the loss of two coaches and his older brother to AIDS.

After a successful professional career, Galindo returned to Northern California, where he now coaches young skaters. He was on the ice with Emma yesterday afternoon, a few hours after learning about his hall of fame honors.

"Life goes on," Galindo said. "This is like my little Oscar win.

"It means so much," he added. "It's all the hard work and those times it was hard to get up and go practice and all the ballet classes and the driving arena to arena, competitions. Wow, this is the icing and the cherry on the cake. This is what you work really hard for, to have this honor."

Galindo-Black said she loves watching her brother's coaching career unfold. She coached him during the final year of his competitive career and describes him as every coach's dream: someone who loves the sport and is eager to learn.

He displays that same passion as a coach, eagerly calling her when a student lands a jump for the first time.

"Coaching is what I love to do," Galindo said. "You continue in skating, you give back to your students your life lessons and lessons in skating. It's continuous.

"I like when they learn things," he added. "You start something. Then to see them on that podium, you think, 'You did this. It's something you created.' It's wonderful to see these kids learn so much in skating."