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Moment #94: Openly gay Rudy Galindo wins U.S. figure skating title

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Figure skating 1996: Prior to the U.S. figure skating championships in 1996, Rudy Galindo had a rough few years. His father died of heart attack, and a brother and a coach died of AIDS. Galindo was himself openly gay (rare in sports, even in figure skating) and he poured all his efforts into the January 1996 U.S. figure skating championships in his hometown of San Jose.

Golden captured Galindo well:

Galindo didn’t just come out of the closet—he brought out the high heels, the boa, and the sassy attitude. Or at least he did in many of his exhibition programs. But in order for any of that, Galindo had to become relevant, and he did that in a big way by winning the national title in his hometown of San Jose, Calif.

“When I wasn’t placing well and was getting standing ovations, I was told it was because I was flamboyant and openly gay,” Galindo recalled. “I was in the best shape of my life in 1996, I skated well, and I was rewarded with the appropriate marks.”

After testing positive for HIV, Galindo left competitive skating but continued skating in ice shows and dove into AIDS activism. He still lives in the Bay Area and coaches. But Galindo's biggest legacy will be his no-apologies statement as an openly gay elite athlete.

“In my heart, I think that I opened some doors for people,” Galindo said. “I think that figure skating now values the more flamboyant skaters under the new system. It is better suited to those who have artistic strengths.”

Here is Galindo's long program that won him the 1996 title.

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