You sometimes hear about athletes winning medals and then having them stripped away due to an issue that was discovered about them or their performance. But what about an athlete who voluntarily got rid of his medal in the hope of helping others? This type of thing is obviously more rare, but it is exactly what Olympic Gold medalist Anthony Ervin did. Let’s back up a bit to give you the full story.
Anthony Ervin grew up in Hollywood, but unlike many of the kids around him, he did not aspire to be a movie star – instead he took his cue from sea otters and wanted to swim. Anthony loved swimming from a very early age. He recalls being taught to swim as a baby in his backyard pool in L.A., and begging his parents to learn how to “really swim” as a precocious six-year-old. His brother, also a swimmer, was a huge influence on him, and his parents fully supported their son’s athletic ambition. Plus, he was fast — really fast.
Anthony swam in high school, and won a full scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. It was there, with his new found independence, that his swimming really shined. In fact, although he was a straight A student with a knack for math and science, he found himself increasingly drawn to competitive swimming. Anthony qualified for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, after coming in second in the final of the 50-meter freestyle, behind his friend Gary Hall Jr. At the 2000 Olympics, at the age of 19, Anthony won two medals, one gold and one silver, for the 50-meter freestyle, and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, respectively.
There he was, at the top of his game, only 22 and with many promising years of competitive swimming in front of him. Then, Anthony did the unimaginable: he quit the sport he grew up with. According to his biography, the “free-spirit then spent several years traveling the world and exploring other interests, from working on a master’s degree in English to playing in bands and collecting tattoos.” Along the way, after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated so many lives in 2004, Anthony sold his gold medal on eBay and gave all the money he made to help the folks affected by the disaster. Truly a remarkable and unique man.
In 2010, Anthony took up coaching kids at Imagine Swimming in New York. He witnessed the children’s playful approach to swimming and their exhilaration in learning how to swim. He saw in the children his own early love of swimming, and remembered watching the sea otters interact in the water and how he would try to emulate their movements. It made him think that he could find that enjoyment of being in the water again, just like he felt so many years ago in Hollywood.
Anthony returned to the water, and to competition, in 2011. He found himself back at the Olympics 12 years after his medal-winning experience, competing in the 50-meter-freesytle, where he ended up placing fifth. When I asked him if he was training for the Rio 2016 games, he noted that, at 32 years old, his window of possibility is closing, but that he will of course give it another shot.
And what better way to cheer for this two-time Olympian than with today’s remarkable find, this shirt signed by Anthony Ervin, #BeInspired campaign T-Shirt shirt signed:
The seller, cradlegear13, has teamed up with the athletes participating in the #BeInspired campaign to sell these signed t-shirts. Unfortunately, the listing doesn’t give us a whole lot of information about the shirts – your best bet is to contact the seller to find out more!
For the #BeInspired campaign with eBay, Anthony has opted to give the money to the “Water to the Thirsty” project, providing clean water to those in the world who need it most.
Take a look at this great video of Anthony, as he tells his remarkable story in his own words:
Comment on any #BeInspired story to be entered for a chance to win a #BeInspired t-shirt and an eBay Gift Card! See Terms & Conditions