The 31-year-old, who retired after taking home two medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, reappeared on the national stage in fine fashion, finishing second in the 50-meter freestyle finals with a time of 21.60.
Looking at the scoreboard after his race, Ervin wasn’t sure what he saw. It’s not that he was too nervous to see his results; he just couldn’t read them.
“I touched the wall, and then I squinted and looked up at the scoreboard. I couldn’t tell what happened. I wasn’t sure what happened,” he said.
“And then once again, Nathan (Adrian) was my eyes. He told me, ‘You made it!’ So, it was just overwhelming relief.”
After the race, Ervin thanked every one of his coaches throughout his life.
Back on the pool deck later for the medal ceremony, Ervin did another interview with reporter Summer Sanders, further expressing his happiness and thanking the lively Omaha crowd.
Then, without warning, he snatched the microphone from Sanders, deciding to put an original finishing touch on a memorable Sunday night.
“I’m going to London!” he yelled, stretching out each syllable as far as it could physically go. He dropped the microphone emphatically and ran off into the distance, leaving a cheering crowd and a surprised Sanders in his wake.
Heading into London, one thing seems clear:
America hasn’t seen — or heard — the last from Anthony Ervin.
1,500 winner goes the distance, then some
At the end of his 1,500-meter freestyle preliminary, Connor Jaeger’s feet touched the wall before anybody else’s hand and second overall.
The progress of the race, which spans 30 50-meter laps, can be hard to keep track of for the swimmers. At the far end of the pool, an official holds up a counter after every 100 meters, telling the swimmers how many laps they have remaining.
Before the final 100 meters, another official rings a bell as the swimmer comes into the wall, warning them that they only have two laps to go.
Jaeger didn’t see the counter, and he didn’t hear the bell. Either that, or he just really loves to swim.
The University of Michigan swimmer did a flip turn when he should have touched and finished the race, going another 75 meters before finally realizing his error.
In the middle of the pool, with the crowd inside the CenturyLink Center cheering and pleading for him to stop, Jaeger halted his stroke. He looked up and glanced around him. His fellow swimmers were already on the wall, staring back at him.
Thousands broke into applause and laughter, and Jaeger — a lone duck of sorts — couldn’t help but smile. After all, he had initially won the race before taking the recreational swim.
After the race, he explained that he wasn’t sure what lap he was on, and he didn’t want to risk a disqualification by stopping early. After taking the last flip turn, though, the truth became pretty clear.
“They keep the counter out of the water and it’s pretty inconvenient to check it. On the last 50, I was pretty sure I was supposed to stop, so I really turned around and looked at it and the counter wasn’t up anymore,” Jaeger said. “I turned around and saw Peter Vanderkaay on the wall and was like, ‘Yeah, I was supposed to stop.’”
Jaeger’s time was good enough to top three-time Olympic medalist Vanderkaay, as well as just about every other competitor in the field. His foot touched at 14:59.97, second in the preliminaries to Andrew Gemmell’s 14:57.29. Chad La Tourette, who was seeded first headed into the event, finished sixth overall at 15:10.38.
On Monday night, Jaeger will attempt to make the Olympic team in the event. And if he’s lucky, a 1,575-meter event will be added soon.
— Mike Vorel