On Friday morning, WNBA star and USA Basketball mainstay Sue Bird will be joined by baseball player Eddy Alvarez as a flag bearer for the Americans at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Tokyo, Japan.
Although there are definitely higher profile athletes among the US delegation, hardcore fans of the Miami Marlins will likely recognize Alvarez. The 31-year-old, switch-hitting infielder has been part of the Marlins organization since 2019 and finally made his major-league debut in August of last year.
However, Alvarez is more than just another ballplayer. And if he and Team USA are able to return to the podium after capturing the bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, it won’t even be his first Olympic medal.
Before he ever played professional baseball, the Florida product was a winter Olympian.
Alvarez Was a Star of the Speedskating World
As a five-year-old in South Beach, Alvarez thrilled crowds by performing tricks in a pair of plastic roller skates. Two years later, he took inspiration from speed skater and fellow Cuban-American Jennifer Rodriguez — a multi-time national champion and double-bronze winner at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City — deciding to commit himself to starring on the ice, per NBC Miami.
That’s precisely what he did, too.
As an 11-year-old, Alvarez won short and long-track nationals. A handful of years later, he participated in the World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships in 2008 and 2009, getting his first taste of gold in the 3000-meter relay in the latter competition. However, a stomach virus caused him to falter at the US Olympic Trials in 2010.
At that point, he switched his focus back to baseball, which he had starred in as a high-schooler. The skating bug never left him, though. Battling back from his lingering knee problems, he would return and become a presence on America’s World Cup squad, winning gold and silver medals at events in the 5000-meter relay and earning a bronze in the 500 meters.
He later earned a spot on America’s team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. However, he initially had a rough go of it in Olympic competition. Alvarez was disqualified from the 1500-meter event after running into an Italian skater. He also fell in a number of other events.
In the end, though, he rebounded to capture a silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay.
Alvarez on Being a Flag Bearer
After it was revealed that Alvarez would be leading the US delegation into Tokyo, the dual-sport athlete spoke out on what it means to him.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers by my fellow Team USA athletes for the Opening Ceremony,” Alvarez said in a statement, via The Washington Post. “Being a first-generation Cuban-American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly.
“I am grateful for my time with US Speedskating and USA Baseball, as well as for all of my teammates, and I am humbled to lead Team USA into the Tokyo Olympic Games.”
If Alvarez and the Americans are successful in Tokyo, he will become just the sixth athlete to medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.
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