- Stay Local
SKATER GALINDO SOARS
What: John Hancock's "Champions on Ice"
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19
Where: Pensacola Civic Center, 201 E. Gregory St.
Details: 432-0800 or www.championsonice.com
U.S. Figure Skating national champion Rudy Galindo is Latino, openly gay and, to make things more complicated, he was diagnosed with HIV in 2000.
Talk about an underdog.
"If you put all of your cards on the table, people can't turn who you are into some dirty little secret," he says, phoning from the "Champions on Ice" tour currently traveling through the Midwest. "I've always been public about who I am. I have no reason to hide."
To say the Nevada-based skater has overcome all the obstacles in his life to win the national title would be a huge understatement. The 10-year veteran of the John Hancock "Champions on Ice" extravaganza is slated to show off his considerable talents on ice when the tour triple jumps into the Pensacola Civic Center on Tuesday, April 19
With accusations that the skating judges lowered Galindo's scores because of his orientation, Galindo's story is all about triumphing over adversity.
"Many people have told me that with this new setup, I probably would've received better marks during my amateur years. Things happen for a reason," he says. "With the new judging system (instituted this year), I may have risen in the ranks faster, but it didn't work out that way. With my win in '96, I was at the right place at the right time."
It was that performance—captured in time as one of those iconic moments in sports history—that continues to inspire the skater.
"I plug into that performance from time to time when I'm on the ice," Galindo explains. "There was so much emotion and it's one of those experiences you have only once in your life. It helps motivate me sometimes when I can't seem to get going on the rink."
Galindo insists that it's much easier for him to "get going" when he skates. For years, the skater suffered from Avascular Necrosis, a debilitating disease that attacks the bone of the femur.
Galindo was given a cutting-edge hip replacement surgery, using a ceramic-on-ceramic technique, in February 2003.
"I'm actually more flexible now than before," he says. "It's great to skate without pain. I've been able to add triples back into my program, which was huge."
The 35-year-old jokingly adds that he could teach a few things to the "Champions on Ice" crew now—including nine-time world champion Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen and 2004 U.S. Figure Skating champ Johnny Weir.
"When I try to give them advice, they don't always listen," he says with a laugh. "I've helped a few, like Johnny Weir, with their spins and stuff. But, as a whole, I've had so much happen in my life since the hip surgery, I have to focus on my program and my skating."
The medalist says he spends his spare time writing. The golden boy confirms that he's working on a follow-up to his successful novel "Icebreaker: The Autobiography of Rudy Galindo" published in 1998.
"In my last book, I wasn't able to cover the HIV diagnosis or the hip replacement surgery, so I've been keeping a journal and plan to work on my second book soon."
When asked if there will be any scandalous insider info, Galindo says "absolutely."
"Being upfront and honest has worked for me in the past," he says. "I'm going to tell it like it is and if they don't like it, then oh well. There will be a few things that may shock a few people, but some of the insider stuff is what I need to tell my story honestly."