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Galindo was a Cinderella story
ABC Sports Online


Rudy Galindo's magical Wide World moment came in winning the 1996 men's national championship in front of his hometown crowd in San Jose, California. ABC's Wide World figure skating announcers Dick Button, Peggy Fleming and Terry Gannon share their recollections of that evening.

Dick Button:
The thrill of that 1996 championship was Rudy Galindo, and what he had to overcome in his personal life. He had to overcome poverty. He had to overcome discrimination of two kinds-number one, being a Mexican-American, and number two, being the first openly gay homosexual in American skating history. He had to overcome and contend with the death of his father, the death of his brother, and the death of his two coaches. And he also had the problem of losing the award-winning pairs partnership that he had with Kristi Yamaguchi. Yet everything came together in one moment in that championship, and how magnificent it was.

Everybody wanted Rudy to win. It was his home town. Halfway through his program, everybody began to realize that he was skating perfectly-landing every triple jump. The enthusiasm for him was 100%. Everybody wanted him to win. They wanted him, after all those years of struggling, to finally make it.And it looked like he was doing that. Everybody was on their feet, myself included. Everything came together for him in one magical moment. It was perfect.

Peggy Fleming
It was wonderful for me because it was my hometown. I was born in San Jose, and I was so proud that ABC and that US Nationals were going to be in my back yard and I wanted everything to be just perfect. I mean we had a brand-new sports arena. I was involved with the community to help build this building because I knew it would bring wonderful events. I wanted everything to go well, and it did.

Unfortunately, I missed the most exciting event that took place in that building because, I wasn't covering the men's event, and I had been there all day at the building covering I think pairs or something, and I had a window of two hours to go back to the hotel and freshen up, and get ready for the ladies' event. So, I come back to the building after washing my hair [LAUGHS], and I see (ABC produder) Curt Gowdy and he tells me, "Oh my gosh, you missed the most exciting event that ABC Sports has ever covered". I asked what, what, what happened? And he told me that Rudy Galindo had brought the house down. That is just my luck, [LAUGHS] I missed the most exciting event.

Rudy Galindo
Rudy Galindo won his only national men's championship in front of his hometown crowd in San Jose, California.
Terry Gannon
Well, Todd Eldridge came in as the favorite. He was the guy who was set to win another gold medal in San Jose. Rudy Galindo, to this day, that story, I think, is one of the great long-shot Cinderella stories in sports over the past ten years and definitely?one of the most emotional that I've been able to witness, at least.

He came in as the San Jose kid, the hometown kid. Everyone in the arena, packed house, knew his story. Grew up in a tough section of town, had a lot of adversity. His father died, his brother died, his coach died. He had lost so much in his life. He rode his bicycle to and from the trailer to practice every day. Kristie Yamaguchi, he skated with him in Paris. She left to go on to become a great singles skater. And here was this guy with one last shot to do something special in skating, and he's in his home town.

Everyone in that arena connected with Rudy Galindo that day, and his performance, as it went on, he hit jump after jump, element after element, you could just sense the crowd growing. It was a feeling that, at the beginning, they didn't think he could do it. I think they wanted him to do it, but they didn't think he could really do it. And by the end of that performance, there was a connection with the crowd and Rudy Galindo that I don't think I've witnessed in any sports in the last ten years.

Up until that point, Rudy had been a very good skater, recognized as such, but he had never won the brass ring-never took home the gold medal, never stood on the top step of the podium at an event like the National Championships. And coming from the neighborhood that he did, and the background, and, and the tough circumstances that he had to deal with growing up, being in his home town, to then have one last shot to do something special in skating-it was almost too much. You talk about fairytale endings, or Cinderella stories-uh, you write a script, you wouldn't believe it. But it happened, and to happen in San Jose, it, it was?more emotional than, maybe any event that I've been around.

Maybe his highest jump was in the kiss and cry area, actually, [CHUCKLES] when he found out that he had won, because he?and his sister Laura was right next to him, who had basically helped raise him, or did raise him. They were so close-they still are. Coached him, made sure that he stayed on the right track and they experienced that together, and, and that was a great moment when he found out that he had won. In many ways his victory, with me, lasts in my memory not only emotionally but physically. I still have welts on my arm from Dick Button just grasping my arm as Rudy Galindo finished up on the ice. I still have bruises from Dick hitting me inside of the shoulder. [CHUCKLES]

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