The Buffalo News is publishing Rio diaries from some of the Western New York families who have competitors at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Karen Alvarez is mother to Anita Alvarez, Olympic synchronized swimmier.
Our family has always loved the Olympics.
Anita’s grandfather, Richard Brinkman, got to witness the “miracle on Ice” as the supervisor of the off-ice officials for ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
Anita’s uncle, Scott Brinkman, has represented the USA in the past five Winter Paralympic Games as a sled hockey official and a referee supervisor. Every two years for two weeks we are glued to our TV’s cheering on Team USA and loving all the stories of athletes’ obstacles, sacrifices and commitment to achieve their Olympic dreams.
At age 16, Anita was faced with the biggest decision of her life: Should she pursue her dream?
Of course the Olympics has been one of her dreams, so she wanted to move to California. But that meant leaving family and friends, leaving her junior year of high school, leaving her home club, the Town of Tonawanda Aquettes, and giving up all the things that come with traditional high school, prom, graduation, swim team, school activities, etc.
And we were faced with so many decisions. Where will she live? How will she get to practice? (She didn’t even have a driver’s license). What about high school if she trains all day? How will we afford this?
We figured it out and made it all happen for her. It was very hard. We often questioned ourselves if we were doing the right thing. Now we know that all her sacrifices and ours were worth it. She is living her dream. We never pushed her to do it. This had to be her decision.
It hasn’t always been easy. The first year we did get some phone calls with tears. We would always say “you can come home if you want. That’s your choice and we will support you. Just remember your dream.”
But the past two years she has absolutely loved it! We always ask her “Do you still like it?”. Just recently she told us “I love it more than ever!”
The Olympic spirit is alive and ignited in Rio.
It is hard to put in words to our feelings. Watching your daughter/sister compete on the grandest of stages … bigger than the World Series, bigger than the Super Bowl … is such a surreal experience. A place where everyone is cheering for everyone. Words can’t describe our pride.
Watching the world unite as one is so refreshing given all that is happening in the world today. During the Olympics, the walls, conflicts and barriers are gone. In the words of Pitbull, “Put your flags up in the sky, and wave them side to side, show the world where you’re from, show the world we are one.” That is truly how we feel here. We have made friends with the Aussies, the Brazilians, the Mexicans and many more. We are all one. Cheering and supporting each other, trading trinkets, taking selfies with one other. The true Olympic spirit!
The synchro event ended today and USA killed it. There are two phases in the synchronized swimming duet competition – the preliminary (free routine prelim and technical routine) and the final (free routine). The sum of the free routine preliminary points and the technical routine points determines the result of the preliminary phase. The top 12 ranked duets at the end of the preliminary phase advance to the final. The result of the final is the sum of the free routine final points and the technical routine points from the preliminary phase.
Anita and Mariya finished eighth in the tech routine, ninth in the free routine and ninth combined. They came into the Olympics ranked 11th in the world. Moving up two places in free routine and three in tech is huge in synchro.
It is very uncommon to see this much movement. So everyone involved with USA Synchro is ecstatic! We couldn’t be more proud of Anita and Mariya. It was a total team effort! Thank you to all our family, friends and community for your support!! Thank you to all of the coaches from the Aquettes for helping mold Anita into a champion. Thank you to Lolli Montico, USA synchro head coach, and Myriam Glez, our high performance director. We are one!
Is it too early to say Training to Tokyo 2020?