Turnaround And Triumph
Then in the fall of 1995, something seemed to happen inside Galindo. For one thing he began to help out his sister in teaching young skaters. This rekindled his original love of the sport. When he found out that the 1996 Nationals would be held in San Jose, his hometown, he decided to give it one last try—a farewell performance if need be, but one to be proud of. He began to train more seriously, dropping 25 pounds and practicing his skating routines over and over to eliminate mistakes. At his sister's suggestion, he even toned down his flamboyant costumes, which had often irritated judges in the past.
Galindo hoped just to finish in the top six, mentally conceding the top spots to previous national champions Todd Eldredge and Scott Hamilton. Indeed, after the short program, Eldredge and Hamilton took top honors, with Galindo in third place. Then came the long program, which counted for two-thirds of the final score, on January 20, 1996. Galindo went all out, landing eight triple jumps and two triple jump combinations flawlessly. Even before he finished, the sellout crowd of 10,869 were on their feet, cheering him on. When the judges announced the final results, including two perfect marks for artistic merit, the crowd went wild. And when seven of the nine judges put Galindo in first place, guaranteeing him the championship, the chant of "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy" filled the stadium.
The media guide for the event hadn't even included Galindo's name, but suddenly he was the national champion. He was the first openly gay man, the first Hispanic, and at 26, the oldest man in 70 years to hold that title. It was an amazing comeback, and Galindo became a hometown hero. And for the first time since the breakup with Yamaguchi, Galindo was on his way to the World Championships, in Edmonton, Canada. Yamaguchi herself called to congratulate him, and for the first time in years the two had a long, warm conversation. Despite a sprained ankle, a bad case of nerves, and the competition of Olympic medallists, Galindo took the bronze medal at the World Championships. It was a result that left him and Laura, by now his coach, ecstatic.