Anthony Ervin walked away from swimming altogether in 2003.
The 2000 gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle and first swimmer of African-American heritage on the US Olympic team simply burned out on the sport. Baffling to many, the 19-year-old international phenom quit to pursue a deeper meaning to life. He even auctioned off his gold medal to aid tsunami victims. Anthony never thought he’d swim again after walking away after his Olympic performance.
He spent the next eight years working odd jobs on both the west and east coasts, including time in New York City working a few hours a week teaching swim lessons to youth while spending his nights performing in a friend’s band.
But the fire in Anthony’s soul was reignited while watching his alma mater Cal win the NCAA men’s swimming championship in March 2011. It was the Golden Bears’ first title in 31 years and sent Anthony back into training mode. He approached Cal women’s coach, Teri McKeever, if he could train with their team and recommitted himself to the water.
That commitment to the water was capped off with an incredible performance earlier this month with a second place finish at the U.S. swimming trials, and with it, a bid to compete for the US at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I’m surprised to be here at all,” Anthony told Yahoo! Sports. “I just want to keep this fun train chugging.”