Inspired by Students, a Gold Medalist Makes a Comeback

Source Link: 

New York Times: Inspired by Students, a Gold Medalist Makes a Comeback

OMAHA — The black Imagine Swimming jacket, worn over a gold California swimming and diving T-shirt, covered Anthony Ervin’s heavily tattooed arms. The glasses and the wispy facial stubble gave Ervin more the look of a graduate student, which he is, than of the other facets of his personality — guitarist, swimming instructor, thoughtful individualist who, to his own surprise and wonder, finds himself back in the pool after years away.

Uninterested in defending his 2000 Olympic gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle, a burned-out Ervin quit swimming in 2003 at age 22.

A circuitous route back to competition in 2006 took Ervin to New York City, where he spent parts of the next four years living in Brooklyn, jamming with a rock band and teaching children at Imagine, a TriBeCa-based learn-to-swim school co-founded by a former Cal teammate, Lars Merseburg.

Ervin was not ready to swim again when he returned to the Bay Area in 2010. But he thinks the enthusiasm of the children he taught in New York, and those he met later at a club in Oakland, helped him rediscover what first attracted him to swimming. That in turn eventually brought him back to the Olympic trials, where he swam in the 100-meter freestyle preliminaries Thursday morning and was scheduled to participate in the 50-meter freestyle preliminaries Saturday. He advanced to the 100 freestyle semifinals on Thursday evening by recording the 11th fastest time in the preliminaries, 49.54 seconds.

“Seeing them committed, gradually making changes and improving, and then having fun with it, I don’t know,” Ervin said. “I guess it kind of blew on some embers that had grown really, really cold, and eventually grew into a fire.” Ervin rose to international prominence as a 19-year-old in 2000. He tied his friend Gary Hall Jr. for the 50 freestyle gold medal in Sydney while beating the two-time defending champion Alexander Popov, who finished sixth. Ervin added a silver in 4x100-meter freestyle relay and followed it in 2001 with world championships in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

As the first swimmer of African-American heritage to make a United States Olympic team, Ervin was both a pioneer and a prodigy. His father is also part American Indian, while his mother is Jewish.

But he never embraced the discipline required of an elite swimmer. Even before high school, Ervin said, he considered quitting.

“I had been dealing with burnout for a number of years,” he said. “There was always another reason to keep going.”

Eventually, Ervin ran out of reasons. “It was time for me to kind of reclaim some of the things that I had sacrificed — some of my freedoms, some of my independence, some of my abilities to go ahead and learn things I had to give up,” he said. “So I spent a few years doing that.”

Ervin had never been to New York City. Inspired by Doug Stern, a triathlon swimming coach he met through Hall and briefly worked for, Ervin called Merseburg, who was a senior swimmer at Cal when Ervin was a freshman. Merseburg, a drummer, told Ervin he could play with his band and suggested he earn money teaching a few hours a week at his school.

Merseburg said Ervin never walked the pool deck like a typical instructor, instead favoring jeans and white T-shirts that exposed his tattoos. An out-of-shape Ervin was so skinny that some parents wondered if he swam competitively at all. By then Ervin had sold his gold medal on eBay for $17,101, which he donated to the tsunami relief effort.

“He was a little eccentric,” Merseburg said in a telephone interview. “He has an air about him. I don’t know how to describe his aura. He doesn’t really want to be categorized.”

After staying with friends for a while, Ervin found his own place in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. He said he related best with playfully confident children who liked to race.

“That’s where I felt I really thrived as an educator at the time,” he said. “That’s where I felt the most comfortable being, because that was the place where I had the constant tug of war with myself, between being competitive and trying to enjoy myself.”

After a year, Ervin re-enrolled at Cal. He took classes part time, flying to New York between semesters, until finishing his English degree in 2010. Once he began his graduate studies in sport, culture and education, he hooked on as an instructor with the Oakland Undercurrent program, where the former Cal swimmers Spencer Hawkins and Rolandus Gimbutis coach.

“What drove him away from the sport was all the attention, and with that, the expectations,” Hawkins said in a telephone interview. “Too many people were telling him what to do. He was like, ‘I want to do what I want to do.’ Reconnecting with the kids triggered something, too.”

It took watching Cal win the N.C.A.A. men’s swimming championship in Minneapolis in March 2011 — its first title in 31 years — to finally move Ervin toward competing again. Near the end of the year, he asked the Cal women’s coach, Teri McKeever, if he could train with her team.

In January he swam the 50 free in 22.27 seconds at the Austin Grand Prix to finish third, behind Cal’s Nathan Adrian, the favorite at this week’s Olympic trials. Two months later he lowered his time to 22.24 at a Grand Prix event in Indianapolis. In June, Ervin won the 50 free at the Santa Clara Grand Prix, with 20 children from the Undercurrent program cheering on the man they know as Coach Tony.

He has not touched his winning Olympic time of 21.80. But at 31, Ervin appears fast enough to contend this week: he was seeded seventh in the 50 freestyle.

“It’s kind of a process,” said Merseburg, who along with the Imagine co-founder Casey Barrett planned to be here Thursday to watch Ervin swim. “You don’t just suddenly wake up and feel better about swimming. Tony did really well in the freedom we created for him. He rediscovered it at the end, something he was so good at. He rediscovered it by teaching it.”

Ervin said: “I didn’t think I’d be here as far back as eight months ago. Back to 2004, I didn’t think I’d be in this position again. In a lot of ways, I’m very much surprised.

“But in the vicissitudes of life, I guess we’re always thrown for a loop at some point or other. I’m just going to go with it.”

The 50 Greatest Swimming Moments in US Olympic History

Source Link: 

Bleacher Report: The 50 Greatest Swimming Moments in US Olympic History

In 2000, 19-year-old Anthony Ervin was dubbed the first-ever swimmer "of African-American descent" to make a U.S. Olympic swimming team.

Later that year, when he tied teammate Gary Hall Jr. for first place in the 50-meter freestyle, he became the first swimmer "of African-American descent" to win an Olympic medal.

Ervin—the son of a Jewish mother and father who is white, black and Native American—was never comfortable with the curiously ambiguous label or its barrier-breaking implications.

Ervin told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal in 2009:

“For some reason, the media really wanted me to be ‘black,’ which was difficult because then the rest of the swimming community then perceived me as ‘other,’ yet the black community, at least in parts, rejected me because I pass as white."

The mercurial sprinter left swimming shortly after 2000—and right before what should have been his prime.

After almost a decade off the grid, Ervin re-emerged earlier this year with the stated intention of swimming in London and has posted some startling times considering the length of his hiatus.

Anthony Ervin: Making Up For Lost Time

Source Link: 

Swimming World Magazine: Making Up For Lost Time

OMAHA, Nebraska, June 26. IF the script had been rewritten, maybe we could be here talking about one of the greatest sprinters in history. Maybe his name would be mentioned in the same breath as Alex Popov or Pieter van den Hoogenband. Instead, when Anthony Ervin's name is raised, the consensus thought goes something like this: He could have achieved so much more.

In 2000 and 2001, Ervin was one of the world's premier swimmers. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, he shared the gold medal in the 50 freestyle with teammate Gary Hall Jr. A year later, he won the gold medal in the 100 freestyle at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. After that, Ervin disappeared.

Lacking the interest to dedicate himself to a career in the sport, Ervin ventured into other things. He was interested in charitable causes, and even auctioned off his Olympic gold medal to support relief efforts related to the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a gesture which says a lot about his character and humanitarian ways. He got into music. He bounced around to various locales. While he stayed connected to swimming through teaching lessons, it wasn't competition.

"The biggest factor (in walking away) was the time I needed to figure things out," Ervin said. "I needed to be unfettered by the discipline needed in a professional sport."

Last year, though, Ervin decided to make a return. Training under Dave Durden at his former collegiate home, California-Berkeley, Ervin didn't set out to land an Olympic bid. Rather, it was a feeling-out process, a gauge of what he could do. It just happened to turn out that Ervin -- blessed with raw sprinting talent -- had enough time to make himself an Olympic contender.

Had Ervin not left the sport, we might be talking about a guy with seven, eight or nine Olympic medals. We might be talking about a guy who set a few world records, or who redefined sprinting. Of course, we're not. Still, late is better than never and having Ervin back in the mix could be a boon to American swimming if he shines this week, more than a decade after his first Olympic Trials.

With the way the Australians performed at their Olympic Trials back in March, the United States will have a tough go in the 400 free relay in London. Aussie James Magnussen has emerged as the top 100 freestyler in the world and his presence could sway the relay in a big way. We'll surely have a better feel for the 400 free relay later in the week, but Ervin could be a key factor for the United States. If Ervin rekindles his past form, or better, the prognostications for an Australian triumph might be tempered.

Ervin will open his Trials on Thursday with the preliminaries of the 100 freestyle and is slated to contest the 50 freestyle on Saturday. Ervin's best chance in the 100 free is nailing down a relay berth. Individually, the 50 free is his best opportunity. The good news is that Ervin isn't looking at this comeback as a brief return.

"I don't have any regrets," he said. "What could have been? I don't know the answer to that. But I'm privileged to be here now."

Earning a spot on the Olympic team is not a far-fetched possibility for Ervin, either. True, Nathan Adrian and Jimmy Feigen might be better bets, but who is going to overlook an Olympic champion, especially one with pure sprinting skill. Beyond this summer, Ervin has no plans of vanishing again, which is an even better sign for American sprinting.

"I plan on sticking around for a little while," he said. "Six or seven months ago, I didn't expect to be in contention (for an Olympic bid) and here I am. I would like to do some things I didn't get the chance to do when I was younger, like going to the World Cup. I'm going to continue to compete here and abroad. I'd like to see a couple more years."

Plenty of compelling stories beyond Phelps, Lochte

Source Link: 

ESPN: Plenty of compelling stories beyond Phelps, Lochte

One of the most intriguing figures at the trials is Anthony Ervin, who won a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, then mysteriously walked away from the sport before the next games in Athens. He sold off his gold medal to raise money for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, lost the relay silver he won in Australia, and generally just roamed around the country, working odd jobs, finishing college and searching for a deeper meaning to life.

Then, out of nowhere, he returned to the deck last year. Now 31, he's already put up times that stamp him as one of the top contenders in the 50 free, a chaotic dash from one end of the pool to the other.

"It's been quite a journey," Ervin said. "However the dice fall, it's been great. I'm glad I've been able to come back. There was never any intention to return to what I was."

Back in His Element

Source Link: 

Cal Alumni Association: Back in His Element

Once a prodigy, Olympian Anthony Ervin is now the Prodigal Son returned.

Anthony Ervin sits in the stands at the Spieker Aquatics Complex and gazes through the dark lenses of his Ray-Bans. At 31, he scarcely resembles the fresh-faced kid who set a world record then won gold and silver in swimming at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He was just 19, and seemed destined to win more Olympic medals.

But just months after completing his athletic eligibility at Cal, Ervin withdrew his name from the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and left school a semester shy of graduation. A year later he could be found working at a Berkeley tattoo parlor and playing guitar with a band called Weapons of Mass Destruction. Eventually he moved to New York City, where he taught swimming and toiled as a bookkeeper. One thing he didn’t do was swim—at least, not competitively.

Now, almost a decade after walking away from it all, Ervin is back—back at Cal and back in the pool, training for the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. In December he won the 100-meter freestyle at the 2011 Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am in Oklahoma City and set the swimming world alight with rumors of a comeback. Asked about that, Ervin, sporting a fedora and a five-o’clock shadow, his arms sleeved in tattoos, bristles slightly at the word choice.

“I never really called it a comeback, first of all,” he says, “I just left sport behind a number of years ago.”

Ervin confesses he wasn’t leading the healthiest life in his time away. “It was like a normal person’s lifestyle … never exercising, smoking, drinking, like so many Americans.” Of course, when he quit swimming, a “normal person’s lifestyle” was what he was yearning for.

“You have to strip away every extracurricular [activity] to be a swimmer. Even in high school, I was always thinking about what I was giving up. Even when I got to college, even after accomplishing my goals, I was thinking about what I was not doing.” It bothered him that he couldn’t join a band without fitting guitar practice in between workouts, and that he couldn’t get a tattoo without staying out of the water for two weeks.

“[I wanted] to have no necessary obligations other than to myself and often to pleasure,” he says of his time as a nonathlete. “I was allowed to be young.”

Ervin likes to talk, but he’s careful about what he shares with reporters. Unlike most star athletes, who tend to hide behind clichés, his responses are serious and cerebral, if also rambling and vague. In the end, the images inked on his arms may be more revealing. Pointing to an elaborate phoenix running up his right forearm, he says, “It’s not even finished yet. It represents a cycle of destruction and rebirth. Read into that what you will. I certainly do.”

No matter how far Ervin’s life drifted from the lanes and laps of his youth, his identity was still defined by success in the pool, by the records set and the medals won. So, in 2005, Ervin shed the most potent symbol of that success; he auctioned his gold medal on eBay and donated the proceeds—all $17,100—to tsunami relief in the wake of the Indian Ocean earthquake.

“I was in a mystic phase,” Ervin says now of the overtly symbolic act, adding cryptic references to “destructive water,” his own “pride in water,” and a “state of disownership.” Ultimately, he says, he was trying to enter a new life: “Same guy. Same name. Totally different world.”

He may have it backward; maybe it’s same world, different guy. After all, Ervin is back in Berkeley—and not just at the Aquatics Complex. He returned to classes in 2007, completing an English degree in 2010. A lifelong learner with ambitions to teach—Ervin coached youth swim teams in both New York and Oakland during his time off—he is now pursuing his graduate degree in Sport, Culture, and Education.

Ervin’s graduate adviser is Professor Derek Van Rheenen ‘86, M.A. ‘93, Ph.D. ‘97, a former Cal soccer standout who runs the Athletic Study Center, a degree completion program for former Cal athletes. Of his advisee, Van Rheenen observes, “He goes so far the other way to where he doesn’t even acknowledge his success. It’s almost as if he’s embarrassed.” Van Rheenen wants his student to put athletic success in proper perspective. “Winning a gold medal is not the end-all-be-all, but it is still a great feat.”

For his part, Ervin credits his adviser with spawning his return to competition. For the final assignment in a course called Sport and Society, students were required to write about their relationship to sports, applying insights from the coursework to their own lives. Ervin admits he was reluctant at first, but eventually he started writing. Before he knew it, he had 50 pages. The experience was cathartic.

“I was carrying around a chip on my shoulder that I had never fully understood,” he says. Once he was forced to come to terms with it, he instantly began to change. Over the Christmas break he quit smoking and started running. After the break, he approached Cal women’s swimming coach Teri McKeever, and asked if he could start “swimming with the girls.”

McKeever was happy to accommodate, allowing him to train with the women until he could gain back his strength and confidence. Then, last February, during a dual meet against Stanford, McKeever suggested the former Olympian do an exhibition swim for the fans. For Ervin, it was like coming home to family. “This was me being in the environment of people committing their bodies to sport,” he says.

Swimming is an individual sport, but Ervin stresses the “team element and a vibe of unity” that resonated for him even in college. After his gold in Sydney, he turned down pro endorsements and prize money to finish out his eligibility.

“I wasn’t ready to be a professional,” he explains, looking back. “I didn’t even like swimming that much…. I think a lot of my team felt I was foolish for not going pro, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything at all outside of them as a team.”

Ervin is now training rigorously and competing in national meets in preparation for the trials in Omaha. There he’ll face stiff competition for an Olympic berth, most notably from his fellow Cal alum and good friend Nathan Adrian, the man to beat in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. But Ervin is within striking distance. He swam the 50 free in 22.24 seconds in March, the second fastest time logged by an American this year. Not bad for someone who only started training about 16 months ago.

But then, he always was a natural.

“He was the fastest and most talented swimmer that I ever swam with,” former Cal swim team captain Joe Bruckart says of his old relay mate. He notes that Ervin was never the “first one in and last one out” at practices, but it hardly mattered at meets. “We just knew that when Anthony was on the block, he was going to make a move if we were behind, or bury the other team if we were ahead. In terms of pure speed, I have seen nobody even come close.”

Whether that speed can be recaptured remains to be seen. But for now, Ervin appears to have recaptured his love of swimming—something he says he couldn’t have done if he hadn’t left the sport behind him for a while. “A big part of my growth and coming-of-age was to see the world more objectively and less specifically as a swimmer. Now that I know what is outside of the pool, I truly do love and appreciate what it is like to be in it. You can’t appreciate the light until you dwell in the dark.”

Light and dark. Destruction and rebirth. Like the tattoo on his arm, Anthony Ervin’s journey in the pool remains unfinished. Read into it what you will.

Ervin wins 50-meter freestyle at Santa Clara Grand Prix

Source Link: 

USA Today: Ervin wins 50-meter freestyle at Santa Clara Grand Prix

Anthony Ervin, the 2000 Olympic champion making a comeback after 12 years, won the 50-meter freestyle, while Stephanie Rice of Australia took the 400 individual medley and Park Tae-hwan of South Korea won his fourth event at the Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet on Saturday night.

Ervin touched in 22.35 seconds, followed by training partner William Copeland in 22.74. Takuro Fuji of Japan was third at 22.86.

A story posted both on the web and in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle can be found HERE

This story was also posted at FoxSports (w/ Pictures)ESPN Olympic Sports, and a nice shot of the podium at San Jose Mercury News.

Also see World-class swimmers all over map in Santa Clara Grand Prix at the San Jose Mercury News.

Anthony Ervin back in swimming after decade off

Source Link: 

SF Gate: Anthony Ervin back in swimming after decade off

It's not unusual for an elite athlete to take a year off from the intensity of competition in order to restore body and mind. It's quite another to take a decade off, as swimmer Anthony Ervin did.

As a 19-year-old Cal student, Ervin won gold in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He won a pair of world championships in 2001, set records at the 2002 NCAA meet and then essentially disappeared for a decade, swimming-wise.

You could say he dry-docked himself.

"The process of getting back into the sport was simple," he said. "I was switching over from leading a very unhealthy lifestyle for a number of years. I felt compelled to make a return to the water. It was a health thing. I wasn't even thinking of competition."

He is now.

At 31, Ervin has returned to the pool, although he said, "I have an aversion to calling it a comeback."

2nd place, then 1st

Call it what you will. He finished second in the 100 free on Friday at the Santa Clara International Invitational meet, touching in 49.95, well behind South Korean freestyle star Park Taehwan (48.85).

Encouraging to Ervin was the fact he led at the turn in 23.12 and the 50 free is his best event. He returned Saturday for that furious, frothy, event and won by nearly four-tenths of a second in 22.35 over current Cal swimmer William Copeland (22.74).

Ervin, distinctive among his fellow swimmers for his full-sleeve tattoos on both arms, will give it a go at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., this month, trying to make the U.S. team.

"I'd love to make the team," he said. "When I got back into this, I didn't think about the Olympics at all."

Ervin competed for Cal all four years he was in school but by his own admission he was a feckless student, staying eligible but not exactly on a path to parchment.

"I left without a degree. Not even close to a degree," he said. "I took classes in every department. I got a very unfocused college education. I call it 'College 1.0.' I came back for 2.0."

From 2005 to 2009, Ervin lived in New York. He taught kids to swim at Imagine Swimming in Manhattan (his current sponsor) and played guitar and sang in a number of undistinguished rock 'n' roll bands.

Ervin eventually returned to Berkeley as a student and earned his degree in English in 2010, though still removed from his sport.

"I was an English major, somewhat of a character - the skinny guy in black smoking cigarettes," he said. "I find it revolting now."

Smoking is the one aspect of his "unhealthy lifestyle" that Ervin would admit to. As to anything else, he said, "Nothing I'm going to talk to you about."

It was at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex in January of 2011 that Ervin finally got back in the pool, with the aim of improving his health and nothing more.

'That felt good'

"I wanted to do a little more swimming," he said. "I'd gotten in better shape. I started swimming with the (Cal) guys and was able to be somewhat competitive with them. That felt good."

Ervin said Cal women's coach Teri McKeever encouraged him to enter a meet in Oklahoma City and "see what it's like to compete again. I had a great time."

These days Ervin trains at Cal under men's coach Dave Durden and works with the Oakland Undercurrents, teaching swimming to kids who would otherwise have no access to the sport.

"I don't know if his path is to get back to being an elite swimmer," Durden said. "I think his path is finding joy in what he does each and every day. I don't know if he wants to be defined as an elite swimmer."

Yet Ervin has those characteristics that define an elite swimmer, Durden said: "He's very cerebral, very thoughtful, very competitive; doesn't like to lose."

Even if he lost more than a decade of his prime swimming life to, well, life.

"I have no idea where this will take me," Ervin said.

Read more and see the pictures:

Swimmer Anthony Ervin has sights set on London Games

Source Link: 

San Jose Mercury News

The iconoclast Anthony Ervin fancied himself as another Jim Morrison while earning an English degree at Cal a few years ago.
"I was the tattooed, skinny student in all black smoking cigarettes," Ervin said.

Now a graduate student in Cal's school of education, Ervin has moved past the notion of expressing himself through verse.

His fire has been lit by returning to the pool 12 years after winning a gold medal in the 50 meters freestyle at the Sydney Games.

Ervin, 31, made progress Saturday at the 45th Santa Clara Grand Prix by winning the sprint in 22.35 seconds, well ahead of training partner Will Copeland.

It was Ervin's first victory since deciding to come back six months ago for another shot at Olympic glory.

"It's a prime example of what is possible in swimming," said Tyler Clary, who won the 400 individual medley and 200 backstroke Saturday.
Ervin isn't sure what's possible. But he knows what he wants: an Olympic medal.

Ervin no longer has the two he won in Australia. He auctioned off his gold medal to donate $17,100 to disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami in the Pacific. Ervin has no idea what happened to his silver medal in the 400 freestyle relay.

But the would-be poet-musician never cared much for the material world. That was part of the reason he drifted away from athletics after bursting onto the world scene in 2000 to become the first swimmer of African-American heritage to make a U.S Olympic team.

"I didn't know anything," he said of those times. "I didn't know what I was going through, what I was feeling."

Ervin was expected to lead American sprinters for the next two Olympics -- or perhaps more. But just like that it was over. He dabbled in music while living in New York City.

Ervin was recruited by a former Cal teammate to help coach at the Imagine Swimming club in New York. It helped him reconnect with the sport.

A year and a half ago, Ervin returned to the pool in Berkeley while earning his undergraduate degree in 2011. Cal coach Dave Durden called it "splashing around."

Then Cal women's coach Teri McKeever suggested the sprinter go to a masters meet in December. He did well enough to consider taking it more serious.

Ervin took the recent semester off from school to try to make the U.S. team. His best chance is finishing first or second in the 50 freestyle at the U.S. trials in three weeks.

Whatever happens, Ervin sounds happy.

"It's just a different journey for him now," Durden said.

Ervin, swimming's mystery man, returns to the pool

Source Link: Ervin, swimming's mystery man, returns to the pool

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Swimming's mystery man is back in the water.

Now, at age 30, Anthony Ervin has a chance to make a real splash at the London Olympics.

Ervin was a rising star when he captured gold and silver medals at the 2000 Sydney Games. But he was never comfortable with the limelight, and he retired at 22. He's vague about what he did during the next eight years, which only added to his aura. This much is known: He sold his gold medal to aid victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, and he lost his silver medal.

Maybe he can win more hardware this summer. Ervin quickly got up to speed less than a year into his comeback, showing he's a contender in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle.

Read more:

Ervin Featured in Sports Illustrated

Source Link: 

Sports Illustrated: Former Olympian Ervin attempting a comeback after mysterious layoff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Anthony Ervin isn't revealing everything about the last eight years of his life. The parts he does share make you wish he would.

Ervin won the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after becoming the first swimmer of African-American heritage to make the U.S. Olympic team. He tied for gold, actually, with best friend Gary Hall Jr. and added silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay. He was 19 years old, fresh off graduating near the top of his class at a Southern California high school, ticketed for NCAA greatness at Cal-Berkeley and many more Olympic medals.

There would be no more Olympics. He doesn't know where either 2000 Olympic medal is now after a cryptic eight-year retirement. Ervin resurfaced in masters-age meets late last year. Few thought much of his comeback, but Ervin popped eyes in his all-intents debut, the Austin Grand Prix in January. He swam the 50 free in 22.27 seconds. He won the 2000 Olympics in 21.98, but the 22.27 (and 22.24 in March) ranks him second among Americans this year. The top two at the Olympic trials on July 1 will go to London. Ervin, at 30, could be the oldest member on the team.

"It feels like I'm as good now as when I stopped swimming," Ervin said at Charlotte UltraSwim, the last major grand prix meet before trials.

Ervin swept the 50 and 100 freestyles at the 2001 world championships and won four individual NCAA championships competing for Cal through 2003. He retired later in 2003, losing interest in the demands of being a world-class swimmer at age 22.

"I still had a lot of angst and resistance towards pushing the direction I'd always been going," Ervin said. "I really just needed freedom.

"So I took it."

Cal women's coach Teri McKeever saw it coming.

"Whether that was good or bad, he went on his own path," said McKeever, whom Ervin started his comeback with in spring 2011 while pursuing his master's degree. "A lot of people aren't willing to do that, especially when there's a lot of people saying, 'What the hell are you doing?'"

And what exactly did he do?

"A lot of growing up," Ervin said. "Went on a lot of adventures."

What those adventures were, Ervin won't say.

"Bullfighting," he joked. "Moon landings."

It's been reported he took up rock music in New York, rode motorcycles and started smoking. He auctioned the Olympic gold medal on eBay for $17,100 and gave it all to 2004 Asian tsunami relief. He simply lost the silver medal. Ervin said he hasn't lived in the same place for longer than nine months over the last nine years. He looks nothing like the 19-year-old baby face from Sydney.

From the top down, his buzz cut's been replaced by unsettled brown curls. He wears black Ray-Ban glasses when not goggled. The silver-looped earrings from 12 years ago are gone, but the piercings haven't closed. And then there are the tattoos.

"I had no tattoos at 19," said the 6-foot-2 Ervin, who's now inked up and down both arms. "It's a narrative of skin."

A story he's saving to share at a later date (his friend, Constantine, has verbal rights to the eight years off). Ervin wore a black zip-up jacket, the only visible body art a red rose on top of his left hand. He gestured and spoke of hubris over his swimming accomplishments, a mystical phase and made a biblical reference.

Ervin said he got his feet wet coaching swimming in Manhattan during his retirement. A teaching itch urged him to move back to Berkeley to finish his undergraduate studies in English in 2010 and then keep studying education. Early the next year, looking to exercise, he asked McKeever if he could do some swim workouts.

"When he got in the water," McKeever said, "it was beautiful. He's just really got a gift, a great relationship with the water."

McKeever was careful not to push Ervin into competition, but Ervin was two months behind on rent payment. So he started to swim competitively again for the money, at least partly. The same guy who passed up endorsement contracts after the 2000 Olympics so he could retain NCAA eligibility.

"It was quite organic from the point of me kind of starting the lifestyle of being the swimmer again into gradually just being like maybe I should go to a competition," Ervin said. "Now I'm doing quite well."

Ervin will likely swim the 50 and 100 free at the Olympic trials. Nathan Adrian is the only man head and shoulders above the rest of the field in those sprint events. Ervin is ranked second to Adrian in the splash-and-dash 50, where the top two make the Olympic team. The top six in the 100 will make the Olympic relay team. Ervin is the ninth-fastest American in that event this year.

"I certainly believe I'm a contender, but I also believe that the field is deep, that the names that are out there are going to be very difficult," Ervin said. "These are guys that have been training for the last four years and beyond as well as you never know who is going to come out of nowhere, like I did when I was 19."

Ervin speaks frequently to child swimmers at clinics and was inducted into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame last week. He's often been asked to recount his gold-medal story. What's happened since is worthy of mention, too.

"I was very much like wet clay," Ervin said. "The impressions that were being made, it was the world pushing those impressions in more than I felt like I was agreeing to what was going on.

"If it was wet cement, now it's dry. I'm a boulder, and I'm going to start rolling downhill ... very fast."

Read more:

Cal men's, women's swim teams both repeat champs

Source Link: 

SF Gate: Cal men's, women's swim teams both repeat champs

With Cal now having won back-to-back men's and women's NCAA team swimming championships, the school has earned a new nickname for its powerhouse aquatics programs:

Swim City USA.

"I hope 18-year-olds think that," women's coach Teri McKeever said, ever mindful of recruiting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

"It's a tough sport," said Durden, hired in 2007. "You train countless hours and have a weekend in March to decide a national champion. I appreciate what the (Cal) women were able to accomplish. Winning is infectious. You kind of get inspired by it."

Over the years Spieker Aquatic Complex on campus has been home to such swimmers as Natalie Coughlin, Matt Biondi, Dana Vollmer, Haley Cope, Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Read more:

Ervin called "Best comeback" at Indy Grand Prix

Source Link: 

Indy Star: Olympian Michael Phelps wins 200 IM in meet-record time in last race at Natatorium at IUPUI

Michael Phelps' name appeared in scoreboard lights on one wall. It was inscribed on the other.

It was wall-to-wall Phelps with a wire-to-wire victory Saturday night in an electrifying farewell to the Natatorium at IUPUI. The 14-time Olympic gold medalist has made this swim season his last, and he made sure his mother shed a few tears.

Debbie Phelps has been coming to Indy annually for nearly two decades to watch her son and two daughters swim, and this was the last race. She calls them "#DPmoments" on Twitter.

She tweeted: "Thank u Indy for years of swimming memories at the IUPUI Natatorium."

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday at Indy Grand Prix

Best comeback: Anthony Ervin, the first swimmer of African-American descent to make a U.S. Olympic swim team, tied Gary Hall for gold in the 50 freestyle in 2000. Ervin retired in 2003, but at age 30 he is a factor again. He was third Friday in 22.24.

Olympic Swimming sensations interview with Here, There, Everywhere

Source Link:

Olympic Swimming Sensations: HTE Interviews!
March 20th, 2012

Anthony Ervin at the 2000 Olympics with his gold medal. Photo credit/license: AP Photo/David Longstreath

Fans and athletes alike are getting excited about the Summer Olympics coming up in London, England this summer (July 27th – August 12th)! Venue construction is underway, teams are being formed, and the excitement is building. There’s something magical about seeing so many countries come together every four years to watch the world’s best athletes in so many great summer sports.

Nico Ferrara. Photo credit: Blanche Mackey.

For young athletes like 11-year old Nico Ferrara, the Olympics are especially inspiring. Nico is a competitive swimmer from New York competing in his first national event at the end of the month. And while he’s cheered on his favorite top swimmers for years, he wanted to find out for himself: What does it take to be the best?

As a special project in conjunction with Here There Everywhere — News for Kids, Nico approached three Olympic gold medal swimmers and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Swimming Team Coach to ask them what it takes … and they answered! (Wow!)

How do they do it? What role does school play? And food? What habits do they have? Who do they look up to?

It doesn’t matter if you swim or not … or are even involved in sports. What they say can be used in our everyday lives to help us be our best.

So, for the next four Tuesdays you’ll be hearing from:

* Natalie Coughlin, (pronounced Cog-lin) who has 11 Olympic medals and could become the most decorated U.S. female Olympian of all-time at the London Olympics!

* Nathan Adrian, who is an Olympic gold medalist from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. He’s a huge name in swimming (and just a huge guy at 6 feet 6 inches tall!)

* Coach Teri McKeever, who is the first woman to coach a U.S. Olympic swim team!

* And, Anthony Ervin, who we’re going to start with. Anthony tied for his one and only gold medal in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when he was just 19 years old. Many were excited about this bright new swimming star, with possibly more Olympic golds in his future. But what he decided to do next surprised pretty much everyone.

He stopped swimming.

Why? No one really knew.

And the one gold medal he worked so hard for? He sold it on eBay to raise money to help others.

Now, 12 years later, he’s back. And, at age 30, he’s as fast as ever! Many people think that his best years to compete would have been when he was younger, right during the years he wasn’t swimming. But for Anthony, it seems that having had that time to ‘grow-up’ is what’s giving him his edge now … and he has a very real chance of making the Olympic team! Trials are in June. We can’t wait to find out!

And, HTE feels extra lucky because Anthony has hardly granted any interviews all this time … until now.

What did he do all those years? Is he excited that he might make the Olympics again?

Take it away, Nico:

Nico: There’s a lot of buzz that you’re swimming again and that your times are really fast. Do you want to compete in London? Are you surprised at how well you’re swimming?

Anthony Ervin: I would love to compete in London, but, as they say, confessing as much is ‘putting the cart before the horse’. I’m really excited to even be able to go to Olympic Trials. I was very much surprised by how well I have been swimming. I thought I was just having a good time in a good environment, but it is pretty cool to be swimming well too.

Nico: Why didn’t you compete in the 2004 or 2008 Olympics? What did you do instead? Do you have any regrets? Did you miss swimming at that level?

Anthony Ervin: I wasn’t ready to compete in ’04 and ’08. In a lot of ways, I had a lot of growing up to do and I knew that I couldn’t do what I needed to come-of-age on my own terms (the only way one can come-of-age) while I was still competing. Instead, I allowed myself to return to other interests I had sacrificed in my pursuit of swimming, primarily music. I was really into rock and roll, being young, hip, and anonymous in big cities like San Francisco and New York City. During many of those years, even though I wasn’t swimming at any level, I was teaching many people how to swim; from babies blowing bubbles, to adults who never learned how. While I didn’t think I was missing swimming at the elite level, subconsciously I suspect I was missing something.

Nico: Is there any chance that what you did during that time outside of the pool has made you a better swimmer now? How?

Anthony Ervin: Absolutely. Formerly, I was so inexperienced and completely restless. I am amazed that I made it as far as I did at the time because I lacked so much that would have allowed me to truly commit to competitive swimming as a craft. A lot has happened in the last 10 years, many ups and downs, much confusion and complexity, hopes summoned and hopes dashed away… to try to articulate the bildungsroman of young adulthood into such a small space would prove futile. Although cliche, it must suffice to say that with age and experience comes wisdom.

Nico: Would it be hard for you to start up again, get your hopes up for London and then not qualify?

Anthony Ervin: A good question, and one that I confront myself with not infrequently — a question that I don’t have an answer to.

Nico: You said in an article that you’re a normal guy. What do you mean by that?

Anthony Ervin: At the time of that article I was busy losing myself in the reading of old books. Do you ever ‘escape’ with reading? I did that a lot when I was your age, and still find myself doing it from time to time. I didn’t really want to be interviewed at the time. I didn’t understand why the writer wanted to do such a thing; after all, I hadn’t been swimming for years and yet he must be confused into thinking that I was still relevant for writing about!

Normal guy: what is normal? What is normal to me may not be normal to you, or the next person. Perhaps being normal is to be invisible, but by being interviewed I became very visible; a star, brilliant in the night sky. Is the star normal yet wholly unique? Be a star, Nico, shine for all the Universe to see you, and then you can be normal too.

Nico: Have you ever thought that people have expectations of you that you don’t have for yourself? How do you handle that?

Anthony Ervin: Yes, but I found that I’m usually wrong about the expectations of people I care about, and that the expectations of people I don’t care about don’t matter at all. The truth is that those who love you and care about you, your true friends and family, they only want you to be happy; how you make them happy is up to you.

Nico: I read that you sold your gold medal on eBay, raising over $17,000 to help tsunami victims. That’s really amazing. Was that a hard decision? That was your only gold medal and you worked so hard for it and earned it. Do you know who bought it? Do you ever wish you still had it?

Anthony Ervin: Yes, that was a hard decision, and a very complicated time. Now the medal seems like a fading memory. I don’t really remember the images engraved into it, or how much it weighs when it is held. I met the man who bought it once. He is an avid swimmer and fan from the Phillipines who shares my name; Anthony Chua.

Nico: Do you think that famous athletes have a responsibility to give back to their communities and set a good example for kids?

Anthony Ervin: It is not just famous athletes that have this responsibility, but everybody. And don’t get it twisted; being a good example isn’t only for the kids, but also for one’s self.

Nico: I heard that you coach kids and that you’re really good at it. What makes you connect so well with kids and what advice would you give to a young athlete?

Anthony Ervin: Hmmmm… I’m not sure it is me that connects so well! I think its the kids that love to learn new swim technique, and test their strength and speed, they are the ones that do the connecting!

To young athletes I would say that passion is inspiring to not only your peers, but also to your coaches – it makes us want to help you get better all the more.

Nico: I read that teenaged swimmer, Missy Franklin, turned down lots of endorsement money to swim for her high school team. What do you think about her decision?

Anthony Ervin: I think Missy’s decisions are Missy’s decisions, and that she makes them with confident resolve so that her story will only continue to get more powerful as she develops.

Nico: I would love to hear more about your tattoos. What’s the meaning of the tattoos you have and how did you choose the ones you did?

Anthony Ervin: Each tattoo is a memory, a person, an emotion, and an idea. Each tattoo went into my skin as young, only to age and mature. The meaning behind the tattoo grows and evolves as I do. My first tattoo, the olympic rings, meant something when i got it 12 years ago….now it means so much more.

Thanks, Nico! Great job … and thank you, Anthony Ervin! We really appreciate it! If you’d like to learn more about Anthony Ervin, including pictures, videos and a more detailed bio, you can click on his website here. Anthony is also the spokesperson for International Water Safety Day, and you can learn more by clicking here.

If you’re interested in swimming and would like to learn more, click here for USA Swimming‘s website.

To learn more about the various swimming and aquatic events at the London games, click here.

HTE will be featuring Nico’s interview with Natalie Coughlin next week!

The 2012 Summer Olympics will be held in London, England

Cal welcomes elite athletes back to school

Source Link: 

Inside Bay Area: Cal welcomes elite athletes back to school

Fame and fortune is not all that lures young athletes away from their degrees.

Swimmer Anthony Ervin, who won gold and silver medals at the 2000 Olympics while a UC Berkeley student, gave up both swimming and school in 2003 to play rock music in New York. He got tattooed and began smoking.

"I just knew that I wasn't ready" to finish school, he said on the Berkeley campus, to which he returned in 2008. "There was no thirst that I needed to quench in the academic sphere. I just needed to go live life for a while."

After returning to Cal, Ervin quit smoking, started swimming again and, with Van Rheenen's help, finished his bachelor's degree in English. The 30-year-old Southern California native is working on a master's degree and is among the favorites to make the U.S. team for this year's Olympics in London.

"Maybe you should be a few years older to truly appreciate what a university has to offer," Ervin said.

Ervin, Evans, Thorpe among big names attempting comebacks

Source Link: 

ESPN is on notice Anthony in the news

Janet Evans doesn't have much time to chat.

She's got to pick up her 5-year-old daughter at preschool, then take her to gymnastics class. After that, Evans will drop off her child at grandma's house so she can head back to the pool for another grueling workout.

"There's never a dull moment," Evans said by phone this week, chuckling at her hectic schedule. "I wish I could take a nap, but not right now, I guess."

This is what the 40-year-old signed up for when she decided to return to competitive swimming after a decade-and-a-half-long layoff, looking to carve out an improbable new chapter in a career that everyone -- Evans among them -- thought was over after she climbed from the pool at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

But she's hardly the only one getting back into the swim of things.

At the pool, this is the Year of the Comeback.

From Ian Thorpe and Brendan Hansen to Ed Moses and Anthony Ervin, the coziness of retirement just couldn't match the lure of gold, silver and bronze.

This week, all eyes will be on the famed "Thorpedo," attempting to make the Australian Olympic team. While three other ex-retired medalists from Down Under -- Libby Trickett, Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill -- also will be competing in the country's national trials beginning Thursday, Thorpe is clearly the star of the show, greeted by a throng of media as soon as his plane touched down in Adelaide.

But, as so many ex-champs in so many sports have learned, the road back to the top is often bumpier than the original climb. That's certainly been the case for Thorpe, whose staggering stash of Olympic medals (five gold, nine in all) did him no good in the meets leading up to the make-or-break trials. The results were so mediocre that even Thorpe conceded his chances of making the team were slim.

"The most realistic outcome of this is that I will most likely fail," Thorpe said in a television interview with Australia's Network Ten. "I wish I had another six months to do this."

Fortunately for Evans, the U.S. trials are still three months away. But she, too, realizes the calendar is not her ally.

"The only question I have is do I have enough time," she told The Associated Press. "I get better every week."

During a Grand Prix meet in Texas two months ago, Evans took care of the qualifying times she would need to compete at trials in her two signature events, the 400- and 800-meter freestyle. But she was far off the pace from her prime, showing just how much work she has to do to beat out swimmers half her age.

Between now and the trials, Evans plans to swim a couple of meets near her Los Angeles-area home. But the bulk of her improvement will come from six-day-a-week workouts, where she furiously windmills through the water hundreds of thousands of times with no one watching except her coach, former national team director Mark Schubert.

Between trips to the pool -- Evans works out twice on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays, once on Tuesdays, Friday and Saturdays, plus has three other sessions devoted to weight training -- there are loved ones to tend to at home. She's married and has two young children, 5-year-old Sydney and 2-year-old Jake.

"I think it's gone really well," Evans said. "I knew it would be hard. Yes, I'm tired, but I'm no more tired than I was in the days when I kept waking up in the middle of the night with a baby. There's nothing harder than being a mom, especially a mom with newborns."

If anything, the comeback has strengthened the bond with her family, both immediate and extended. Everyone had pitched in to help, allowing Evans to work in the necessary training but not feel like she's cheating the ones who matter most, her husband and children.

"I feel like a working mom," Evans said. "The glory is I get to be at home with the middle of the day to do things with my kids. I feel like I've got the best of both worlds. We're eating better. We're all going to be bed a little bit earlier. We're kind of living in the moment and enjoying it. It's good for us. We're a little more scheduled that we were before. That's always good for everyone."

In Australia, there have been reports that younger swimmers are ticked off that the national governing body gave financial support to the comebacks of the 27-year-old Trickett, 29-year-old Thorpe and 34-year-old Klim. National coach Leigh Nugent insisted it was money well spent.

"They're going to contribute, if they make it, to the performance of our team and maybe help some of the other members on the team with relay medals, bring experience to the team, stability to the team with that experience," Nugent said. "I can only see positives in this, and I think it would be a pretty ungrateful person and a pretty ungrateful Australian to not assist our proven best performers."

The former retiree who might have the best chance of getting back to the Olympics is Ervin, who was only 19 when he shared gold in the 50 free at the 2000 Sydney Games but stunningly walked away from the sport three years later. He returned to college to work on his master's degree. Mostly, he dropped out of sight and worked on finding himself.

"I needed some time to grow up, needed to live outside of the box or outside of the pool for a little while before I was able to come back as a more self-actualized person," the thoughtful, enigmatic Ervin said in a story posted on the U.S. Olympic Committee website after he swam at the Austin meet, turning in impressive times that were largely overshadowed by Evans.

Ervin finished third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free, showing right away that he's a serious contender for London, even if he hasn't exactly made it clear he's trying to get back to the Olympics.

There's no such ambiguity with the others. Hansen thought he was done after the 2008 Olympics, where he finished a disappointing fourth in the 100 breaststroke after failing to even qualify for the 200 breast.

Calling himself totally burned out, Hansen dabbled in business ventures and started competing in triathlons. But, as the next Olympics came into view, he couldn't resist the urge to get back in a swimsuit.

His rationale behind giving it another shot could probably apply to just about everyone in this Year of the Comeback.

"I didn't want to watch the 2012 London Games on my couch," the 30-year-old said. "I felt like I had some unfinished business."

Anthony Ervin Making Major Noise

Source Link: Anthony Ervin Making Major Noise

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.

Anthony Ervin Named Spokesperson for International Water Safety Day

Source Link: Anthony Ervin Named Spokesperson for International Water Safety Day

US Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist, and former world record holder Anthony Ervin becomes spokesperson for International Water Safety Day

Anthony Ervin, US Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist, former World Record Holder & World Champion has become an official spokesperson for International Water Safety Day (IWSD).

After winning the Olympic Gold, 2 World Championships, and 7 NCAA titles, Ervin retired at the young age of 22. A true humanitarian, Anthony auctioned off his Olympic Gold Medal on E-Bay donating the proceeds to tsunami relief efforts in Southeast Asia. Recently, in his first USA Swim meet in 7 years, he won gold at the Chesapeake Pro-Am and immediately put himself back in the US top 5.

With over 30,000 drowning deaths monthly, the lack of water safety education has propelled drowning to the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide. International Water Safety Day is designed to educate youth in becoming safer in and around the water while spreading global awareness about the ongoing drowning pandemic.

Shaun Anderson, co-organizer of IWSD, stated, “Anthony has embraced his place in the world as an opportunity to reach out and try to give back, and within that spirit we’re excited to have him aboard.”

International Water Safety Day, hopes to reach millions this spring. What’s your reach? Help calculate the impact of International Water Safety Day by sharing your plans for May 15th at:

USA Swimming Grand Prix, Austin

Source Link: USA Swimming Grand Prix, Austin

Notably, Anthony Ervin, on the comeback trail along with a host of other swimmers chasing the dream of another Olympic berth in Omaha this summer, finished fourth in 49.90. The 30-year-old who won Olympic gold in the 50 free at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and a silver as part of the 400 free relay that year as well, originally retired from the sport in 2003. Meanwhile, Michael Phelps won the B final in a strong 49.14, while Ryan Lochte faded to 15th with a 50.58.

Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am: Anthony Ervin Wins 100 Free to Conclude Comeback Meet

Source Link: Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am: Anthony Ervin Wins 100 Free to Conclude Comeback Meet

The Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am came to a close in Oklahoma City with comeback kid Anthony Ervin providing the headlines with a win in the men's 100 free.

Cal's Ervin held off Tucson Ford's Simon Burnett for the title in the blue-riband event, 42.65 to 42.73. Ervin won the 100 free at the 2001 World Championships in addition to his 50 free Olympic and World titles in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Burnett, meanwhile, won the Commonwealth Games in the 100 free in 2006. Stanford's Jason Dunford touched third in 43.34.