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Galindo Makes Pro Debut

October 25, 1996

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Rudy Galindo emphatically disproved his doubters earlier this year by becoming the U.S. figure skating champion.

On Saturday, he faces a new challenge: the pros.

Galindo can’t wait.

``Before the San Jose nationals, I planned to make it the last nationals I’d compete in, and it so happens I won the nationals,″ Galindo said. ``After the world championships, when I won the bronze medal, I felt it was a great time to become a pro.

``I’d been invited to so many professional events and when I was asked to be part of the Albany competition, I felt it was the right one for my first professional competition.″

Galindo will skate against Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko and Kurt Browning in the U.S. Professional Figure Skating Championships. All they’ve done is win two Olympic gold medals and seven world titles.

``I was honored to be selected for this, to compete against such great champions,″ said Galindo, 27, who skated on the fringes of the Olympic-eligible level until his stunning performances in January and March. ``You’re talking about Brian, who has won an Olympics and worlds, and Viktor, another Olympic champion, and Kurt, a world champion.

``Personally I feel exactly the same about my programs and with doing the same jumps. But on the pro level you can do more with choreography and expand more into the artistry, taking your skating in different directions. It’s not all just the most and toughest jumps for first place. You can expand yourself and skate like a professional. It’s a whole step above.″

Most of the top Olympic-eligible skaters were a step above Galindo until last season. A two-time national pairs champion with Kristi Yamaguchi, Galindo’s career floundered when Yamaguchi dropped pairs to concentrate on singles.

Last year, struggling financially and spiritually _ his coach, Jim Hulick, died of colon cancer in 1989; his father Jess died of a heart attack in 1993, and six months later his brother George died of AIDS; and another coach, Rick Inglesi, died of AIDS in 1985 _ Galindo stopped skating for eight months.

But he didn’t want to quit with the national championships coming to his hometown, so with his sister Laura as coach, Galindo returned. And suddenly, he had the right free skate program (``Swan Lake″) and the proper mindset. He always had the jumps.

``In performing before an audience and jumping, the confidence level really has risen and it has really become easy for me,″ he said.

He figures he’ll need those jumps, plus enhanced artistry, to skate on a par with the pros.

``I think I might have an advantage and I might push them to their limits (technically), because their technical programs were not that tough before,″ Galindo said. ``They haven’t needed to be.

``But I noticed that Brian is doing the triple-triple combinations in his technical programs now. I think we will see that in Albany and it will be one of the toughest competitions of the year.″

Entered in the women’s event are 1992 Olympic champion Yamaguchi, 1984-88 Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt, 1976 Olympic winner Dorothy Hamill, and Ekaterina Gordeeva, who won two Olympic pairs titles with husband Sergei Grinkov, who died last November.