Olympian Eddy Alvarez Calls Speed Skating 'NASCAR on Ice'

Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Eddy Alvarez Compares Speed Skating to NASCAR
Eddy Alvarez
Clive Mason/Getty

02/12/2014 AT 12:25 PM EST

Johnny Dodd is a reporter and writer for PEOPLE, currently in Sochi covering the 2014 Winter Olympics. You can follow him on Twitter @Johnny_Dodd.

I am big into trying to understand what certain experiences feel like – physically and mentally.

And this afternoon, when I'm fighting to keep warm while watching the men's 1000-meter skating competition in Sochi's Adler Arena, I'm going to be thinking about what U.S. Olympic skater Eddy Alvarez told me in describing why he loves this event: "It's all totally unpredictable, and I'm addicted to it."

We spoke a few weeks before he headed over to Russia, and I copped to not truly grasping the essence of his sport. Alvarez compared skating to another high-speed sport: race-car driving.

Olympian Eddy Alvarez Calls Speed Skating 'NASCAR on Ice'| Winter Olympics 2014

Eddy Alvarez

Scott Halleran / Getty

"It's like NASCAR on ice, with 18-inch blades strapped to the bottom of your feet," he told me. "They're razor-sharp, and the blades are roughly three fingernails in width."

Just as in auto racing, speed skating can be risky .

"We hit speeds of about 40 miles an hour, and what's really intense about it is that you never know what's going to happen," Alvarez said. "You can be out in front of everyone, going into that last turn, then suddenly the ice will break out from under you and you slip and fall. What's even more crazy is that you can never really know who is going to slip and who they'll take out."

Tune in to NBC tonight to see whether Alvarez flies or falters on the ice. If you can't wait for all the action, check back with PEOPLE.com for spoiler-free coverage and more of Johnny's dispatches from the Games.

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