Anthony Ervin, 35, wins 50-meter freestyle gold in stunning fashion

Anthony Ervin won his second gold in the 50-meter freestyle on Friday. (AP)
Anthony Ervin won his second gold in the 50-meter freestyle on Friday. (AP)

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Phelps isn’t the only swimmer with a great comeback story.

Anthony Ervin, the oldest man to swim for the United States at the Olympics in more than a century, earned a gold medal in the Rio Games’ 50-meter freestyle race Friday night. He is the oldest Olympic swimmer to ever win an individual event.

The 35-year-old finished the sprint in 21:40 to win a nail-biter. France’s Florent Manaudou touched the wall just after Ervin with a time of 21:41. American swimmer Nathan Adrian took bronze with a time of 21:49.

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“This medal means to me, the recognition, the immense gratitude for all the people that have supported me through the highs and the lows, always there for me, let me lean on them and I hope they can always lean on me if they need it. Most of them are beyond needing to lean on the likes on me,” Ervin said.

“There were no guarantees but I was feeling good coming into the meet. I felt really good in the prelims, then I changed things for the semis, felt even better then I had a game plan for finals. If anything, I was a little bit slower than I thought I was going to be. But it’s a tough race, it’s the 50-meter final in the Olympics.”

Ervin won a gold earlier this week in the 4×100-meter relay. It was his first Olympic medal since the Sydney Games 16 years ago, when he became the first African-American swimmer to secure Olympic gold by winning the 50-meter freestyle.

Drug and alcohol issues kept Ervin away from swimming for years, and his comeback story, already one of the best of the Games, is now even better.