April 27, 2005
BERKELEY, Calif. - Former California Golden Bear Anthony Ervin, who is coming out of retirement to return to competitive swimming, will auction off his 2000 Olympic gold medal to benefit the Tsunami Relief Fund. Ervin, who won the gold medal by tying Gary Hall, Jr., in the 50-meter freestyle at the Sydney Olympics, will auction off his medal on eBay.
Ervin had retired in February of 2004 in part to improve himself as a "musical artist," which is still a major goal. He plays guitar for a band with, he says, a couple of different names including the Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Ervin, who watched his alma mater compete at the 2005 Pac-10 Championships in March in Long Beach, has trained in Berkeley since January as part of his comeback effort. He recently competed at an Italian club meet in Mondavi, Italy, and will be eligible to compete in FINA-sanctioned events in September.
He says it will be hard to part with his medal, but the experience of winning it will always be rewarding. Plus, he says, he will have more motivation to replace it with another gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The eBay auction is expected to begin today, Wednesday, April 27, or tomorrow, Thursday, April 28.
"The medal itself is just a symbol of the work I put in," Ervin said. "But the work was what was mine. And the time I invested, I still have that. That dedication and tenacity and trying to pursue things with excellence, I still have that. By doing this, it's a good way of being able to give back."
The idea to get involved with some sort of charity grew from a December 2004 trip to Japan that he took with Hall and Cal co-head coach Mike Bottom, who coached Ervin at Cal and has been Ervin and Hall's personal coach for years. The trio was in Japan to speak and work at a Japanese Swim Federation Clinic.
"While I was there, I was thinking about coming back to swimming, and thought I had to give back in some kind of way," Ervin said. "I had been caught up in trying to improve myself, becoming isolated and selfish in trying to get myself better and better, which is somewhat necessary.
"I thought, If I come back, I wanted to have some means of giving back to fans and to people in the world in general. I was telling my agent there in Japan, where I discovered the flooding problem. That has ties with water and with my sport, so it was a good way of connecting the two."
He took a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., to train with Bottom and the Cal swim team at the Olympic Training Center later that December. The tsunami hit Asia soon after Christmas, and Ervin found himself glued to a television set to follow news about the devastation. He soon decided to link his comeback to benefit those affected by the rogue wave.
"I expect the unexpected from Anthony," Bottom said. "When he came to me with that, my take was to help him to fulfill that vision. He did have a vision that this was what he wanted to do. Before the tsunami hit, his passion had already been to help flood victims. He didn't have a good understanding of where his help would go. When it hit, he understood what he wanted to do."