|Nickname(s)||Eddie the Jet|
January 30, 1990 |
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)|
|Weight||160 lb (73 kg)|
|Sport||Short track speed skating|
|Coached by||Stephen Gough|
Eduardo Alvarez (born January 30, 1990) is an American short track speed skater who represented the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics and professional baseball player. The son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez grew up in Miami, Florida. He took up roller skating at age five, performing on the beach. He began ice speed skating at age seven, and at eleven he won national age-level titles in inline, long track, and short track speed skating. In high school, Alvarez took a break from skating to concentrate on his other love – baseball. He played well enough to earn a college scholarship, but instead quit the sport to pursue his Olympic dream.
Alvarez made the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, winning a gold medal in 2009. After missing the 2010 Olympics, he returned to baseball in an attempt to give his knees a break after years of chronic pain. He became an All-Conference shortstop, but his knees did not improve. In early 2012, Alvarez underwent surgery to repair badly torn patellar tendons that left him completely immobile for four weeks. He returned to the National Team in July, but was too weak to navigate stairs, let alone skate competitively.
After intense physical therapy, Alvarez made the United States' World Cup Team in December 2012. He finished the season as the country's third highest ranked skater. During the 2013–14 World Cup season, Alvarez won three medals. At the 2014 Olympic Trials, he placed second in the 500 meters, second in the 1500 meters, and third in the 1000 meters. The performance made him the first Cuban-American male speed skater to make a U.S. Olympic team. At the Olympics, he won a silver medal in the 5000 meter relay after failing to medal in his three individual events. Prior to the Olympics, Alvarez said he planned to give up speed skating after the Games to concentrate on baseball.
At age five, Alvarez was given a pair of plastic roller skates. He quickly found he had a talent and passion for the sport, performing tricks such as jumping over boxes for weekend crowds in South Beach. At age seven, his coach, Bob Manning, introduced him to the ice. Taking inspiration from fellow Manning student and Miami resident Jennifer Rodriguez, Alvarez commit himself to one day making the Olympics. At age eleven, "Eddie the Jet" as he was becoming known as, won the triple crown – national age level titles in inline speed skating, long track speed skating, and short track speed skating.
During high school, Alvarez put his skating career on hold to focus on his other love – baseball. He played well enough to earn a full athletic scholarship to St. Thomas University as a shortstop. However, the idea of competing in the Olympics drew him back to speed skating and Alvarez declined the scholarship. "Basically my senior year I went up to the head coach and I was like, ‘listen I’ve always had this goal, or a dream, and I want to go back to skating.’" he recalled. "So I dropped baseball and went back to skating."
Alvarez made the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, winning a gold medal in the 3000 meter relay at the 2009 edition. Hampered by a stomach virus, Alvarez placed seventh at the 2010 Olympic Trials and missed the team. After the Trials, he decided to take a break from skating to give his knees a break after years of chronic pain. "It got to a point where I couldn’t finish workouts. I would come home and cry", he recalled. "But I would tell myself to push through it because it was the Olympic season and I had nothing to lose."
For the 2011 season, Alvarez walked on to the Salt Lake Community College baseball team. He became the starting shortstop, batted .303, and was named to the All-Conference team for the season. However, his knees did not improve and he finally decided to have them checked out. His doctor found that Alvarez had multiple tears, twelve total, in the patellar tendons of both knees.
Alvarez underwent five plasma injections before resorting to a surgery that could have ended any chance of a skating comeback. He had surgery in March 2012 and was completely immobile the next four weeks. "That was a tough time," he recalled. "My all-time low. I was ready to quit." His father persuaded Alvarez to persevere and by July Alvarez was ready to return to the National Team. He returned as the team was falling apart in the aftermath of accusations that head coach Jae Su Chun had mentally and physically abused athletes. Chun was forced out and formed his own skating club, taking half the National Team with him. Alvarez stayed with the official team. "I went back into the national racing program because the only way I could do it was with support", he explained. "I couldn’t do it on my own. I had to do what was best for me." Alvarez's muscles were so weak from disuse that he could not even navigate a set of stairs without help. While his teammates worked on their skating skills, he underwent intense physical therapy to rehabilitate his leg muscles.
By December 2012, Alvarez had recovered enough to qualify for the World Cup team. After the 2013 US National Championships in January, he was ranked fourth overall on the US team. He made the World Championships, and moved up to third by the end of the season. During the 2013–14 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup, he won a gold (at Kolomna) and a silver (at Seoul) in the 5000 meter relay. He also won a bronze (at Shanghai) in the 500 meters.
Alvarez opened the 2014 Winter Olympic Trials by placing second in the 1500 meters. He followed it up with a second-place finish in the 500 meters, securing a spot on the Olympic team. He became first Cuban-American male speed skater to make a U.S. Olympic team. "It's an incredible feeling," he remarked. "This was a dream, a goal of mine since I was a kid. I want to stand on that podium. I want to represent my country and my background, my family, my parents". Alvarez concluded the Trials by placing third in the 1000 meters.
Alvarez opened the Olympics with a disqualification in the 1500 meters after running into an Italian skater. In the 1000 meters, he was fell when a Canadian skater slipped in front of him. He was taken down by a South Korean in the qualification round of the 5,000 meter relay, but the United States was advanced when a judge ruled the South Korean had impeded Alvarez. In a 500-meter heat, Alvarez again fell, this time on his own when he slipped on some soft ice. Commenting on all the falls, he joked that he should get a medal for his skill at hitting the protective padding at the edge of the rink. Alvarez finished strong, as he and his teammates won the silver medal in the 5,000 meter relay final, finishing 0.271 seconds behind Russia.
The Chicago White Sox signed Alvarez to a minor league contract on June 11, 2014. He made his professional debut with the Arizona White Sox of the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he played 27 games. He was promoted to the Kannapolis Intimidators of the Class A South Atlantic League on August 12, 2014.
Alvarez views fellow short track speed skater J.R. Celski as being like another brother. He says training with Celski, whom he has known since age six, has been the biggest factor in his success as a speed skater. "In California we’d be going up the sand dunes and he’d see me coming closer and he would just hit the jets," he recalls. "We’re competitive. Everything we do is a competition." After his surgery, Alvarez learned to play guitar to keep himself occupied.
- "Eddy's Profile". NBC Olympics. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Jason Franchuk (January 4, 2014). "A Victory For Two Runners-Up". TeamUSA. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Linda Robertson (April 5, 2013). "Eddy Alvarez won’t let go of Olympic dream". The Miami Herald.
- Chris Clark (January 4, 2014). "Eddy Alvarez, South Florida Speedskater, Tries To Clinch Olympic Spot". NBC 6 South Florida. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Anahad O'Connor (January 9, 2014). "The Workout: Speedskating With Eddy Alvarez". The New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Willie Cornblatt (November 13, 2013). "Bowe, Alvarez more than just speed skating athletes". NBC Olympics. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- "Men's Profiles: Eduardo (Eddy) Alvarez". United States Olympic Education Center (Northern Michigan University). Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- Amy Donaldson (January 1, 2014). "Going the distance: Eddy Alvarez endured painful knee surgery to chase Olympic speedskating glory". Deseret News. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Beth Harris (January 5, 2014). "Celski qualifies for 3rd event at Sochi Olympics". AP. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Linda Robertson (February 22, 2014). "Miami’s Eddy Alvarez finds silver lining in 5,000 short-track relay, helps U.S. speedskaters salvage a medal". Miami Herald. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
- "White Sox sign Olympic speedskater to minor deal". SI.com. Associated Press. June 11, 2014. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
- Hamilton, Scott (July 26, 2015). "Hamilton: Alvarez now focused on diamond not gold". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 18, 2015.