While Miami native Eddy Alvarez was making South Florida proud as one of the two flag bearers for Team USA during Friday’s Opening Ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics, his friends and family were beaming with pride back at home.
Alvarez joined USA women’s basketball star Sue Bird, marking the first time in Olympic history that participating countries included both a male and female athlete carrying the flag for the Opening Ceremony.
“Thank God I have Sue here holding me up. I’m freaking out a little bit, I’m not going to lie,” Alvarez said during NBC’s broadcast of Friday’s ceremony. “This is so emotional and I’m feeling the energy of my team.”
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A silver medalist in speed skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Alvarez is chasing a new Olympic dream in a different sport - this time as a member of Team USA’s baseball squad.
“This has been just an amazing ride, an amazing, amazing ride,” his mother, Mabel, said while watching the ceremony take place at the Doral gym owned by Eddy’s brother Nick.
The now 31-year-old sped his way on the ice seven years ago. This time in Tokyo, he’s seeking glory on the diamond.
“It’s something that we never thought it was going to happen, so it’s like it was just a surprise” Mabel said.
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The 31-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez was a baseball star at Christopher Columbus High School before turning down a college scholarship to begin his career in the world of speed skating.
After winning national age level titles in the sport as a teenager, “Eddy the Jet” won World Junior Short Track titles in back-to-back years before undergoing surgeries to repair multiple tears to tendons in both knees.
Once recovered, Alvarez would eventually become the first Cuban American to qualify for the Winter Olympics in speed skating and win a silver medal as part of the 5000-meter relay team in Sochi.
Things are different this time around. His mom Mabel and dad Walter, will be watching from home because the pandemic kept them out of Tokyo.
Kimberly Martinez knows the feeling. She and her 3-year-old daughter Vera will also be watching from home as her husband, Nick, is Eddy’s teammate.
“You know, life happens and he got picked and we’re super excited.” Kimberly said.
Eddy’s family has grown too - he’s now married to Gaby and has an infant son, Jett. But what hasn’t changed is Mabel’s hopes for her son that she first shared in Sochi.
“I wish him the very best, and that I know with God, anything is possible and let’s go Team USA,” she said.