Rogue 50-Meter Freestyle Gold Medalist Is Back After Going off the Grid
He doesn't look the part of an Olympic gold medalist 50-meter freestyle champion, with tattoos covering both arms from shoulder to finger tips, wiry hair, in need of glasses to see the scoreboard, pecs that are solid, but certainly not Men's Health-cover status.
At 31, Anthony Ervin, who tied for Gold with the famed USA sprinter, Gary Hall Jr. at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, went off the grid for nine years, playing in a band, serving as swim instructor, couch surfing, reading and trying to define himself outside of the media spot-light he was thrust into at just 19.
When he did resurface, he did so in high style with an unexpected runner-up finish in the 50 freestyle at the US Olympic Trials, and posting the third fastest time in the world this year--21.60 seconds, just a hair's breath away from teammate Cullen Jones at 21.59 and reigning Olympic gold medalist from 2008, Cesar Cielo of Brazil with a time of 21.38.
Scripted by the media after his 2000 gold medal win as a symbol for his mixed African-American, Jewish and Native-American heritage, Ervin, at 19, a free-thinking kid not ready for the spotlight, soon left the sport entirely, living a Jack Kerouac-type of experience that we know little about until he surfaced, briefly in 2004, auctioning his gold medal on eBay and donating the $17,000 proceeds to Asian tsunami relief.
His non-linear path did lead him back to Cal Berkeley where he re-enrolled to finish his English degree and maybe as importantly came under the training and tutelage of Cal coach and now US Olympic Coach, Teri McKeever, whom he trusted and began swimming in earnest.
The results? Ervin was ecstatic with his unbridled success at US Olympic Trials going a personal best and beating out the likes of Nathan Adrian and other great USA sprinters. His joy and gratitude was palpable as he took the mic and thanked his fans and coaches and supports and Gary Hall Jr.
While the majority of his teammates tweet from the Olympic Village about clothes and meeting other athletic stars, and posting pics of great views, Ervin keeps his ever-growing twitter fan-base abreast of his reading. The Alchemist, which he said first inspired him to sell his gold medal on eBay to support those in desperate need and then more recently a Smithsonian article he thought his more heady fans would enjoy.
Regardless, the tattooed, decorated Olympian is back at age 31, and ready to take on Cielo and Jones and make his way to the podium for a second time, with a heartfelt understanding of what it means to be an Olympian and what it means to be human. Go Anthony!