Bird and Alvarez will be the US flag at the Tokyo Olympics

(Reuters) – Basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddie Alvarez will be the flag bearers of the U.S. team at this week’s Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said on Wednesday.

Bird, a four-time Olympic champion, and Alvarez, who won a silver medal in speed skating at Sochi 2014, were chosen by their teammates as the first duo to share the honor of leading the delegation at the opening ceremony.

Bird, 40, is the first basketball player to carry the flag since Don Staley, the team’s current coach, in 2004.

“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen as Team USA’s standard-bearer,” Baird said. “I know what that means because I watched Don Staley when she was selected in 2004.”

Alvarez, a first-generation Cuban American, also brings the Olympic experience to Tokyo, where he won the silver medal as part of the 5,000m short-track speed skating team in Sochi.

“My family has sacrificed so much to have the opportunity to wave this flag with pride,” Alvarez said.

“I am grateful for the time with the United States in speed skating and baseball, as well as all of my teammates, and I am honored to lead the American team to the Tokyo Olympics,” he added.

The United States will send a team of 613 athletes to the Olympics, its second largest delegation to an Olympic event, after only 648 athletes led to Atlanta 1996. (Frank Bing reports in Toronto; Edited by Carlos Serrano in Spanish)

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