Skate the same way as at the nationals? Why not ask for a rainbow in a bottle? Galindo might hit every triple, replicate every gesture and move just as arrestingly from beginning to end. But he will never skate quite the same way because, well, the first time happens just once. That he should finally show everyone what he could do, in his hometown, on the eve of giving up competitive skating so he could coach youngsters full time and actually earn a living—that's part of the magic. Clearly, Galindo will never again skate with as much at stake or as little to lean on.
"Rudy became a whole person this year," Laura says. "He confronted all the issues in his life and stopped putting the blame on everyone else. There was a different kind of fight in Rudy this year. He had so little, and he wanted to give something to Mom."
Their mother, Margaret, has suffered emotional problems since her husband died. She no longer drives a car and seldom goes out of the trailer park in which her children grew up. Rudy shops for her, cleans for her, keeps track of the bills. She doesn't want to move—all her memories are in that trailer—so Rudy's going to buy her new furniture with some of his newfound wealth. "Once my dad passed away, she kind of hung up her gloves," he says. "I just wish I could have given something back to him: a vacation, a new car. All the things he couldn't afford so I could skate."
Jess Galindo was a truck driver—very strict, very loving—who made a regular run between San Jose and Las Vegas for United Technologies Corp. He could barely read or write, so Laura, who is five years older than Rudy, kept his books for him. He taught her to drive his 18-wheeler on 1-5 when she was 13. "That's how much he trusted me," she says. "That's why Rudy depends on me."
Laura was like a surrogate mother. Drugs and gangs were common around the trailer park, and Jess wouldn't let Laura or Rudy go out with other kids. But he encouraged their skating, since the Eastridge Ice Arena was five minutes from home. Laura started at age 10, and Rudy tagged along. "We were in bed by 7:30 almost every night," she says, "then up at 4:45 to do our figures before school. All the extra money went to skating."
It was a constant strain. Laura remembers her father looking at a house for $89,000, a house that now would be worth four times that much. He wasn't sure he could swing it and still pay for their skating, so he bought a bigger trailer. He paid for Rudy to take ballet lessons to refine his style, training that led to two perfect 6.0 artistic marks at this year's nationals. "Sometimes I'd hear arguments at home about the bills, but Dad never asked me to stop," Rudy says. "And Laura paid for some of my lessons when she worked at Taco Bell in high school."
Galindo was a fine singles skater—he was third in the world juniors at 15—but pairs was his first love, and he eventually specialized in that. His partner was Kristi Yamaguchi, and together they won the 1989 and 1990 U.S. championships. Had they stayed with it, they were a good bet to win a medal in the 1992 Olympics, which would have been the end of his family's money problems. But the roof tell in when Yamaguchi told him she was giving up pairs to focus on her singles career. "April 26, 1990," he says ruefully. "I guess I knew it would happen. You hear comments from other skaters. But Kristi had never said anything. We were like brother and sister, then we just went our separate ways."
So did their fortunes. Yamaguchi won the 1992 Olympic gold and launched a lucrative professional career. Galindo, returning to singles rather than attempting the impossible task of finding a partner of Yamaguchi's skills, floundered. He finished 11th at the nationals in '91 and eighth in '92. "He never said one bad word about Kristi," Laura says. "He just bottled it up."
As his career backslid, the personal tragedies began to pile up. Jess Galindo died of a heart attack in 1993, imbuing in Rudy a deep sense of guilt for never having been able to pay him back for his sacrifices. Rudy's brother, George, who is 10 years older and had left home at 18, was stricken with AIDS and moved back into the trailer in '92. He, too, was homosexual. Margaret had gone into a shell following her husband's death, so Rudy, who had been living with friends, moved back to help care for George in his dying months. It wasn't Rudy's first exposure to the disease. Jim Hulick, the coach who had paired him with Yamaguchi, had died of AIDS-related cancer back in 1989.
"I gave my brother baths," Galindo says. "I'd take him to the hospital for his treatments, and he would barely be able to walk. I was angry that I was the one who had to take care of him. Then near the end, he didn't recognize me. AIDS patients often suffer from dementia, and he'd go, 'Who are you?' He'd hide from me under the bed. I had to leave for a competition in Vienna, and I had a feeling he wouldn't make it. I kissed him and told him I loved him, and he kissed me and told me he loved me. Then he died the same time I was doing my long program. I came right home. That was hard. I went from the ice to the funeral."