Anthony Ervin’s triumph in the men’s 50-meter freestyle Friday night at the 2016 Olympics was special.
Ervin, 35, won gold in the same event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In the 16 years since, a second individual gold eluded him. He spent eight years in retirement, and didn’t swim at the 2004 or 2008 Games. He struggled with drug use, and even tried to commit suicide. He came to Rio as the oldest member of the U.S. swim team.
Friday, he finally got that second individual gold. So what could make it even more special? Ervin doesn’t have the first one anymore.
In 2005, Ervin put the gold medal from 2000 up for auction on eBay. He did so to raise money for the Tsunami Relief Fund in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that devastated Sumatra, Indonesia. The medal sold for $17,100.
So Ervin no longer possessed his gold. He also won a silver medal at the 2000 Games in the 4×100 freestyle relay – but heading into Rio, he didn’t have that medal either. He lost it while traveling during his time away from swimming between 2003 and 2011.
Ervin might treat this gold with a little more care. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll sell this for a great cause, too. Either way, Erving’s 16-year journey is a pretty remarkable one.