It’s partially because Ervin is a guy my age who got back into the pool after wanting more out of life than swimming. I didn’t swim even remotely close to the levels of these Trials athletes (I can however boast that I swam against two Trials qualifiers—in 2000 and 2004--in dual meets) but I was always swimming—or studying—and couldn’t ski because it overlapped with the swim season. It’s partially because Ervin is a sprinter—he makes the two events I was a regular in look so easy—which gives me even more reason to cheer like I have for Matt Biondi, Jenny Thompson, Gary Hall and Dara Torres (or just dream that I can swim distance like Janet Evans).
But it’s mostly from what unfolded over the weekend, both what I watched on TV and what I read online (thank you New York Times, USA Swimming, California Magazine, Washington Post, Twitter, Facebook and AnthonyErvin.com). Like Rowdy Gaines said before the swimming coverage closed for the night, I was a. inspired and b. rooting for Ervin along with a majority of the Omaha crowd. And I became even more of a fan; it's the super swim fan mentality that's been ingrained in my head since 1992 when I started following Olympic swimming. It's moments--and sheer randomness--like these that got me.
He had to ask his buddy and fellow Cal alum, Nathan Adrian, for his time. And that Adrian could joke about it later.
He totally mouthed a “What happened? Did I make it?” after he sealed his spot to London. And again, Adrian stepped in to tell him.
He swam two lanes over to congratulate Cullen Jones for winning the heat. Jones touched out Ervin by one-hundredth of a second and nabbing another event to swim in London.
He swam the 50 free faster in this Trials than he did to win gold in Sydney 12 years ago.
He’s not the prototypical swimmer, whatever a prototypical swimmer is.
He mentors kids through swimming and gave them—Imagine Swimming and the Oakland Undercurrents—a shout out.
He used his Olympic fame for something good. If I won a gold medal, I can’t say that I’d auction it off on ebay and donate the $17,000 to tsunami relief efforts.
He makes swimming look fun. That's not to say that Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte don't but he takes the sport beyond the pool.
He comes across as humble, smart and just plain awesome. And no, I’m not trying to ego stroke here.
Love that he was wearing his own logo, a non-swimming shirt, on the pool deck for the 50-meter free final (Lochte sported a Speedo tee in the ready room most nights). Designed by a friend, we can wear the artwork too.
With the Olympics being all about stories, even more so than the races most of the time, Ervin’s is my favorite by far. And it’s easily because I’m in absolute awe that you can walk away from international competition for years, find that motivation to start swimming again, and not only return to that top level but also be faster than when you left. That’s a tough feat in any sport and definitely in swimming where reaction times, speed, turnover, and recovery (Dara Torres is the perfect example and has admitted it) can slow down as you age.
He makes me want to swim faster and try harder to get my speed back—well, all the Trials competitors do. Not that I’d ever come close to anything swum at Trials, but I can dream.
He uses big words like circuitous, maelstrom and vicissitudes when he’s being interviewed. See there’s that smartness.
He's left-handed—I can’t help but get excited when I spot a fellow lefty.
I want to attend one of his swim clinics. I really want to pick Ervin’s brain on stroke drills, how he reaches and maximizes his stroke, and how to get good pushes off the walls and blocks. It’s the sprinter inside of me trying to re-emerge.
That race was easily some of the best 22 seconds of swimming I've seen. Did you get as wrapped up in the excitement? What athlete inspires you?
For more reading about Ervin:
- The New York Times
- Washington Post
- USA Swimming (and check out another favorite from Mike Gustafson about two other semi-surprises to the 2012 Olympic team)
- California Magazine
- Swimming World TV
- Team USA