Anthony Ervin, 35 is the oldest member of the U.S. swim team. He won his first gold medal in the men’s 50m freestyle at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 at the age of 19. He has qualified for the same event after 16 years. Anthony won his third Olympic medal on Sunday at Rio, but he no longer owns the first two.
In 2000, a 19-year-old Ervin shared gold in the 50m freestyle with best friend Gary Hall Jr. and earned silver as part of the 4x100m free relay. He later sold his Sydney 2000 50m free gold medal on Ebay for $17,101 to aid the 2004 tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia. He lost the Sydney 2000 4x100m free relay silver medal while traveling during an eight-year retirement from 2003 to 2011.
Ervin came back and made his second Olympic team in 2012, finishing fifth in the 50m freestyle in London. He endured a tough stretch the last four years, bottoming out at the 2015 World Championships.
“What will he do with this one?”- he was asked. “I don’t know. I’m living in the moment, man. I know nothing about what I’m going to do other than how I’m trying to set myself from what I just did to how I’m going to swim tonight.”
It will mean a dramatic showdown in the race for the gold on Friday night when he could become the oldest Olympic swimmer to ever win an individual event if he can pull off the win.
Ryan Lochte is 32, while teammate Michael Phelps is a mere 31.
The odds for Ervin’s success are looking good. He was tied for the second-fastest in the semifinals with a time of 21.46 seconds.
Looking back at his Sydney success, Ervin admits that he wasn’t happy and felt controlled by the swimming pool and wanted to rebel.
In the year that followed his win at Sydney he suffered from addiction, drank heavily and tried to commit suicide. Fame, he believes, came too early, and it made him want to fight against those who were there to support him – even the rectangle of water that had turned his big dream as a youngster into reality.
“I was in a state of rebellion. As soon as something appears to me that seems like its sole purpose is to control me, I will fight it, and for a while that was the pool,” he said.