For the newest member of the U.S. Olympic speed skating team, the long road to success would not have been possible without the help of two people.
Miami native Eddy Alvarez, who will turn 24 the week before the 2014 Winter Olympics, said he couldn't have made it to Sochi without his mom and dad.
And it was the voice of his father, a Cuban native, giving him a stern ultimatum that propelled him through years of practice, he said.
"Put up or get out," father Walter Alvarez would say to push his son on his quest for Olympic gold.
“If I didn’t perform, man, I wouldn’t hear the end of it,” Eddy Alvarez said.
And his father doesn't deny he was strict.
“I did not tolerate underperformance, underachievement," Walter Alvarez said. "It has to be achievement or overachievement, but not under, because I knew what he could do.”
Yet, the younger Alvarez isn't complaining.
"It taught me how to push myself every day on the ice," Eddy Alvarez said. "Because of him, I’m going to be prepared for whatever comes in my life.”
He said it’s been his parents’ steady influence that has guided the Miami-native through the peaks and valleys of his skating career.
Walter Alvarez and his wife, Mabel Alvarez, handed their youngest son his first pair of skates when he was 4. His mother ushered him from school to baseball practice to skating practice. They traveled the country for meets. The parents invested what they had as long as their son did too.
“They’ve put in so much time, money and effort," Eddy Alvarez said. "My dad has never missed one of my skating competitions. My mom drove me from Brickell all the way to Kendall and back. If I forgot my skates, she’d drive all the way back to Brickell, pick up my skates and go all way back to Kendall. Then I go home and she cooks me dinner. It was a huge sacrifice for them.”
Mabel Alvarez said the sacrifice was well worth it.
"It was just a joy of seeing that love he had to accomplish something since he was very young," she said.
His parents even pushed him through his darkest time -- when a 2012 surgery on both knees left him immobile for a month and his career on the line. He didn't know if he would ever skate again and started losing his drive.
“I was ready to quit," Eddy Alvarez said. "I was bedridden. I couldn’t walk. "But again, my dad, as stubborn as he is, just kept talking. He just kept that dream alive in my head.”
Walter Alvarez had a habit of pushing his three kids. Eddy’s older brother played professional baseball. His sister is a successful DJ in Los Angeles. Now the youngest Alvarez is an Olympian, on his way to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games, with his parents in tow.
“My mom hides behind the camera. She can’t physically watch me race,” Eddy Alvarez said. “And my dad is Nervous McGee!"
Keeping calm is hard enough when watching their son, but when you throw in the unpredictable, blistering pace of short track speed skating, nerves are frayed.
“I don’t know if I can do it many more years," Walter Alvarez said.
For now, their nerves get a respite. With his parents as part of a raucous cheering section, Eddy Alvarez qualified for his first Olympic team during the U.S. trials in Utah at the start of the year, finishing second among the five-man team.
Just imagining her boy walking with the American team during the Opening Ceremony brings Mabel Alvarez to tears.
“It’s hard, because as a parent,” Mabel Alvarez starts to say before her emotions keep her from finishing the sentence.
Walter Alvarez’s pride is equally strong.
“There’s no stopping him in life," he said. "Already, he has all this discipline and incredible will. He’s already made it, to be honest. From now on, it’s gravy.”