Anthony Ervin Dreamfuel

Anthony Ervin, the Rock Star of Swimming, Shares His Tale in Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian

Sunday, June 12, 2016 Louis Vasseur

At 19, Anthony Ervin was on top of the world.  Winner of the Gold Medal in the 50 meter freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Ervin had earned the title “fastest man in the world” in water.  He was the rock star of competitive swimming.  His enthusiasm was short lived, however, when as soon as he exited the pool, a sportscaster asked him not about his performance but rather what was it like to be the first swimmer of African American descent to win Gold.  He was later kicked out of the Olympic Village and prohibited from participating in the closing ceremonies because of a curfew violation.  Thus continued the roller coaster ride that was Ervin's life.

Ervin shocked the sporting world by retiring soon after claiming two world titles following the 2000 Olympics.   Auctioning off his Olympic Gold medal for charity, he set off on a part spiritual quest, part self-destructive bender that involved Zen temples, fast motorcycles, tattoo parlors, and rock & roll bands.  Then Ervin resurfaced in 2012 to not only make the U.S. Olympic team 12 years after his first appearance, but to continue to swim faster than ever before, and faster than anyone else. 

In his new book, Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, coauthored by Ervin, along with swimmer and journalist Constantine Markides,  he shares his long awaited tale of talent, turbulence, and transformation.  More than just your typical “hero’s journey” the memoir describes Ervin’s rise to the top of his sport, crash, and then discovering redemption. Throughout, the authors never flinch at revealing Ervin’s less than perfect past and the humility he demonstrates at coming to terms with his own egotism and personal shortcomings.  Chasing Water explores Ervin’s personal quest to define his identity beyond the constricting boxes of his racial background and his status as a competitive swimmer.  Markides’ third-person account of Ervin’s life and career, from childhood to present, is presented alongside Ervin’s first-person accounts of defining moments in his life.  The memoir also includes some of Ervin’s personal journal entries; black and white illustrations inspired by his many tattoos; and original graphic story envisioned by Ervin and Markides;  and other original pieces of content that, like Ervin himself, separate this memoir from the pack.

“I’ve always felt that the story of my life has been about being normal, but on the fringes of abnormality and it’s the fringes that separate my life from the rest,” explains Ervin.

Ervin’s story is especially unique in that his family tree represents a broad demographic of Jewish, Native American, and African American descent.  He was also diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome in high school.  His journey since the 2000 Olympic Games has helped him embrace his place in the world as an opportunity to reach out and try to give back.   In addition to auctioning off his Gold medal on eBay and donating the funds to tsunami relief in Southeast Asia, Ervin regularly teaches free swim clinics across the country.  He has served as a public ambassador for USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash water safety initiative, dedicated to teaching every child in America how to swim.  Ervin was also a spokesman for the International Water Safety Day that reached over a quarter million people.  This inaugural safety day partnered with US Rowing, the Boys and Girls Club of America, and USA Swimming member clubs nationwide.  Ervin was an early participant in Dreamfuel, a crowd funding program that helps athletes raise funds to pursue their athletic dreams.

Ervin is currently training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.  He has been named co-Captain of the USA Swim Team..  Working towards a spot on his third Olympic team this summer has given Ervin the impetus to continue training, and whatever happens this summer in Omaha (and, if he makes the team, heading for Rio), Ervin said he isn’t sure what life holds for him beyond 2016 as far as swimming is concerned. “I haven’t thought much in the way of plans beyond this summer,” he said. “After 4 years, I really want to be able to take in the view of what I've done (and not done) for a while before I begin formalizing plans. “At this point, I simply have a lot of ideas that are a mix of interesting and ambitious, but there are numerous choices that have to be made. Beyond the summer, I will be making some choices.”

You can follow Ervin's progress at and  

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