American swimming legend Anthony Ervin, the brand ambassador of this year’s Delhi Half Marathon, says he was into smoking during the intervening years between his Olympic gold winning feats in 2000 and 2016.
Ervin brings with him an unusual yet astounding personal story that led him to win the 50m freestyle gold at Rio Olympics, 16 years after he won his first gold medal in the same event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He gave up competitive swimming at the age of 22 in 2003 and auctioned his 2000 Olympics gold on eBay to help the survivors of Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 280,000 in the days after Christmas in 2004.
He decided to make a comeback by resuming his training again in 2011 at the age of 30.
“I was into smoking after quitting swimming. But once I decided to make a comeback I had to stop it. So, I stopped smoking and went for training to be in top form and fitness. I appeared for the trials and then got into the team,” said Ervin at a media interaction ahead of the Delhi Half Marathon November 19.
Ervin is the first swimmer and one of the few non athletics background brand ambassadors of this prestigious event.
After his comeback, Ervin did not achieve immediate success and he finished fifth in his pet event of 50m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics. He did not lose hope and kept himself motivated.
His perseverance paid off Ervin won the gold in 50m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics, besides another yellow metal in the 4×100 freestyle relay. His name entered into record books as the oldest individual gold winner in swimming.
“It’s difficult to say which gold was better and more memorable. Sydney was my first gold and I was just 19 at that time too young to savour the achievement. This Rio gold was also something special,” said Ervin in his first visit to India.
“I always believed I had the potential to be better, that thought needs to be there. There is always more to learn about myself, measure my potential and get better than before,” said Ervin when asked what inspired him to make a comeback.
Asked about the auction of his 2000 Olympics gold which fetched USD 17,000, he said, “I have no regrets to have auctioned the gold medal. The fund went to UNICEF and I felt happy. The gold medal is also safe and sound at somebody’s home.”
Reports say that a swimming fan from the Philippines bought the gold medal.
A man of free spirits who quit swimming in 2003 as he wanted to be unhindered and unfettered from the discipline of being a competitive and professional swimmer, Ervin was placed into the sport of swimming as a child with the hopes that he would channel his energy and aggression into something productive.
“I was good at mathematics and science at school. I did want to be a professional swimmer. But I love Olympic movement. I hope I will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” said the swimmer who also won a gold each in 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle in the 2001 Fukuoka World Swimming Championships.
“I will keep myself fit and take part in the Olympic trials and hopefully I will be selected in the team. I think I have a strong chance to be in Tokyo,” said Ervin who will be 39 by the time of Tokyo Olympics.
Ervin said running liberated him and he enjoyed it more than swimming at times.
“I may be one of the rare swimmers who likes running. It’s a luxury for me as it allows me to look around and observe people, which I don’t get in swimming.”
About the Delhi Half Marathon, he said, “I am honoured to be a part of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017 as the event ambassador.
“This race is one of the most sought-after running events for elite and amateurs alike and the elite athletes field proves the fact. I look forward to the race day and experience the excitement and the energy first hand.”