- Speed Skating
Bowe, Alvarez more than just speed skating athletes
It wasn’t easy for either of them. That’s easy to tell. Brittany Bowe, a long track speed skater who played college basketball, and Eddy Alvarez, a short track speed skater who played college baseball, both had extremely successful careers in their more mainstream sports before completely committing to a life of skating.
“I plan to go back,” Alvarez says immediately when asked if he regrets giving up baseball. “After these Games, I plan to go back to school and play baseball.”
Alvarez, who will turn 24 the month before the Olympics, was a quality baseball player that turned down a full ride scholarship to St. Thomas University in Miami, but eventually returned to the game as a first team all-conference shortstop for Salt Lake Community College.
The 25-year-old Bowe was a basketball star that played four years at Florida Atlantic University.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Double threats: The other sports of Olympic hopefuls
The two American skaters, both from Florida, were both forced to give up their respective sports to fully dedicate themselves to skating. It’s a decision that sounds easy now that both are in position to compete in the 2014 Olympics, but the truth is, it was far from it at the time. In fact, both chose the opposite of their current decisions at first.
“I came to the point in 2008, going into my 2009 year, that I was just going to hang up my inline skates and just focus solely on school and basketball, because at that point in time I really wanted to try to sign a professional basketball contract somewhere, probably overseas,” Bowe says.
After seeing Heather Richardson, a former inline skating competitor of Bowe’s, skating at the 2010 Olympics, she realized that the best chance for her to recognize her Olympic dream was through skating.
“Going into 2010, and we’re actually still in basketball season, and watching the Vancouver Olympics, I don’t know, it hit home to me, I knew it was something that I always wanted to do was be an Olympian,” Bowe says. “Realistically speaking, I knew that avenue wasn’t going to come through basketball and I just really wanted to give it a shot and here I am.”
Alvarez quit skating his freshman year of high school in an effort to dedicate all of his energy to baseball. He originally signed to play with St. Thomas University, but changed his mind in his senior year of high school.
“I signed with St. Thomas University out in Miami, it was a full ride,” Alvarez says. “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.’ So I dropped baseball and went back to skating.”
Alvarez didn’t qualify for the 2010 Olympics, and after experiencing consistent and significant pain in his knees, he returned to baseball with the hope that it would be easier on his legs. He played for Salt Lake City College and ended up leading his conference in doubles, earning first-team all-conference honors at shortstop, and was nominated to be an All-American. Still though, his knees weren’t improving.
“I was planning to take a break from skating, give the knees a rest -- they heal up, go back -- but it didn’t work like that,” Alvarez says. “So I finally got them checked out and I had multiple tears in both patellar tendons to the point where it was like strings, just like junk.”
Alvarez had major surgery to repair his patellar tendons, and it was an incredibly difficult road back.
“After surgery I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move for four weeks,” Alvarez says. “I had to pee in a tub, my mom and dad had to help me go to the bathroom. I was just sitting there, I couldn’t do anything.”
But after serious physical therapy, Alvarez returned, and his raw talent and athleticism make him one of the best threats for the U.S. men’s short track team to medal in Sochi. He won bronze in the 500m race at the World Cup event in Shanghai this season, which was his first individual World Cup medal of his career.
Bowe has established herself as one of the top two U.S. women’s speed skaters since her transition to the ice. Last season, she finished second in the overall World Cup standings for the 1000m distance, only behind Richardson. Earlier this year, she won the 500m, 1000m and 1500m distances at the U.S. Championships beating friend and rival Richardson.
Both Alvarez and Bowe credit certain skills from their careers in previous sports for some of their on-ice success.
“In a way, one helps the other,” Alvarez says. I’m a firm believer in that. I’ve always said this: If I skate well, I play baseball well, or vice versa. A sense of balance on ice helps with my sense of balance in my swing.”
Bowe doesn’t necessarily see the technical aspect of basketball helping her skating, but she does believe the more abstract concept of playing a team sport helps her role on the speed skating team.
“I think I really bring some leadership skills over to our team and I feel like I can lift our team up and make everybody work hard, lead by example, things like that,” Bowe says.
Both hold out hope to return to their off-ice sports after their skating careers.
“I don’t have a favorite team just because I know there’s a possibility I could be playing for any team,” Alvarez says when asked if the Miami Marlins are his favorite team because of his Florida roots. “I would love -- I would love -- to play for the Miami Marlins and stay home and be with my family and see them often. That would be huge.”
Asked if she has any regrets about leaving basketball behind, Bowe says “absolutely not,” but that she would love to return to the game and that “basketball has always been in my blood.”
She doesn’t have any specific plans for a dramatic return, but she’s always ready.
“I definitely always have a basketball in my trunk,” Bowe says.
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