BASKING RIDGE, New Jersey, January 16. One of the better movies of the 1990s, and a film that doesn't get the credit it deserves, was A Bronx Tale. There is a quote from one of the characters which has always resonated: "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent." It's a strong commentary on the importance of taking advantage of our gifts.
It can be argued that over the past decade, Anthony Ervin has fit the bill of the aforementioned quote. After becoming an Olympic and world champion in his late teens and early twenties, Ervin walked away from the sport. He did, however, use his swimming exploits to contribute to those in need by auctioning off his Olympic gold medal in order to raise funds for those affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
We'll never know what Ervin could have accomplished had he continued forward and pursued additional Olympic berths. Could he be a three-time Olympic champ in the 50 freestyle? How many international medals could he have captured? If nothing else, Ervin's current comeback is providing a glimpse of just how great he could have become.
Racing at the Austin stop on the United States Grand Prix circuit, Ervin had a fruitful weekend. After finishing fourth in the 100 freestyle in 49.90, Ervin earned a bronze medal in the 50 free with an effort of 22.27. While Nathan Adrian, America's premier sprinter, clocked in at 21.94, Ervin's performances was more than encouraging.
Suddenly, Ervin is a legitimate threat to represent the United States in London. While Adrian is the strongest bet to earn sprint nods for the next Olympiad, the battle for the second slot just got murkier, with Ervin emerging as a danger to the likes of Cullen Jones, Josh Schneider and Garrett Weber-Gale. Ervin, too, could supply a key boost to the American 400 freestyle relay, which was bounced by the Australians at last summer's World Championships.
Long ago, Ervin was considered a future star for United States swimming, a man who could carry the sprint-freestyle banner for many years. He chose a different path and vanished from the scene for a while, but is now back, and regaining the form of his past. Certainly, it's nice to see his talent back on display.