The 35-year-old Olympian became the oldest swimmer to win gold in an individual event when he touched the wall at 21.40 seconds in the men’s 50-meter freestyle on Friday night.
“I feel the overwhelming support of all my people,” Ervin told NBC after the race. “My team, my country and my people.”
France’s Florent Manaudou won silver and Nathan Adrian won his second bronze of the games.
Ervin, who battled alcoholism, drug addiction and depression between gold medals, was asked by NBC how he explains that 16-year gap (another record!).
“Maybe a piece of me wanted to see if I could get that medal back,” he told NBC. “I got it.”
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Age ain’t nothing but a number.
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The swimmer returned to the Olympics after years of troubling behavior – including substance abuse and an attempted suicide – following his sudden retirement after competing in the 2000 games in Sydney, where he won gold in the same race.
He began a slow turnaround in 2008, when he re-enrolled at Cal Berkeley, studying literature. In 2011, he again decided to return to swimming, and announced in 2012 that he had his eyes set on making it to the 2016 Olympics.
Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian
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On Sunday, he anchored the qualifying heat of the 4×100-meter men’s freestyle relay, which earned him his first medal since his teenage years.