April 28, 1997 12:00 PM

with Eric Marcus

Rudy Galindo’s autobiography has a giddy, breathless quality, as if, with every sentence, the 1996 U.S. figure skating champion is preparing for—or recovering from —a demanding triple axel. Galindo’s high spirits are admirable, considering his story. Born “in a small trailer on the wrong side of a freeway in East San Jose,” to a truck driver and a mother who was hospitalized for mental illness when he was only 2, Rudy discovered his love for skating when he took lessons as a second grader.

The boy’s talent was immediately obvious. But despite his natural gifts, nothing came easy for Rudy, and Icebreaker describes his hard work and triumphs despite a string of personal tragedies and professional setbacks: the death of his brother and two of his coaches from AIDS; the loss of his beloved father; the trauma of his professional split with skating partner Kristi Yamaguchi; a drinking problem; the repercussions of his being openly gay in the often-spiteful world of celebrity figure skating; a devastating romantic involvement with a man who emptied Galindo’s bank account and introduced him to drugs.

Icebreaker never transcends the conventions of the standard as-told-to memoir. Still, Galindo is endearing, and it’s hard not to give him high marks for resilience. (Pocket, $23)

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