Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR
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TOKYO – What do speed skating and baseball have in common?
American Olympian and flag bearer Eddy Alvarez. He won a silver medal in speed skating at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, and competes on the US baseball team at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Otherwise, not much, as Alvarez joked in a recent interview, “I’d say the only connection is we’re going left. There’s really nothing quite like it about them.”
Alvarez, 31, was selected by fellow athletes to be the flag bearer for the opening ceremony on Friday, along with American women’s basketball legend Sue Bird. This will be Bird’s fifth Olympics.
Alvarez aims to become the sixth athlete to win a medal at the Winter and Summer Games.
Her Olympic dreams started with speed skating
Alvarez, a first-generation Cuban-American, began rollerblading in Florida at the age of five.
“I was walking the streets of South Beach and I was spotted,” he recently told Team USA. “Two ladies stopped my parents and said, ‘This kid has to try the sport of inline skating’, so I did and remember falling in love with it and the thrill of racing.”
He loved both skating and baseball while growing up in Miami – but years later, after a knee injury, he focused entirely on skating to try and make the Olympic team.
In 2014, he represented Team USA at the Sochi Winter Games in four events. Alvarez and his teammates won a silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay. The team missed gold by just a fraction of a second against the Russian team.
“When you’re so close to winning and you have to get on the podium and listen to someone else’s anthem, it just leaves a little bit of that bittersweet feeling,” Alvarez told the newspaper recently. Miami Herald. “This trip is like a second chance.”
Upon returning from the Sochi Games at the age of 24, Alvarez began to carve his way into professional baseball as an infielder.
The White Sox accepted him into the team’s minor league system, where he spent five seasons before being traded to the Miami Marlins.
Last year, Alvarez made his major league debut.
This has given him some experience of playing without in-person spectators, which will come in handy during the Olympics.
“I have some experience with the fanless thing. Do I like it? Absolutely not. I absolutely hate it. At the same time, I understand the precautions they take; it’s always an honor to represent my country and the goal is always to bring home a medal, ”he told Team USA.
The stars lined up for Alvarez when baseball returned to the Games
Baseball is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. It is a very popular sport in Japan, and the host country has successfully pushed for its inclusion. That meant the stars aligned for Alvarez to make his return to the Games.
His return is now extra soft. Alvarez was visibly moved when his coach told him he had been selected as the flag bearer, to the applause of his teammates.
“As you can probably tell, I am extremely emotional at the moment,” he said. in a published video by USA Baseball.
In a later Instagram post he wrote: “I have to say this is more than just a personal accomplishment.”
“The meaning goes much deeper… It represents the American Dream,” Alvarez said. It honors his family’s sacrifice, he added, and “solidifies that the trip was worth all the time and the struggle.”
Six nations will compete in baseball at the Tokyo Games. The American team will play their first game next Friday, against Israel.