Anthony Ervin Bio: Parents, Tattoos & Olympics

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So many things can happen in 16 years. In the case of Anthony Ervin, it’s one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. 

His life is unbelievable; winning Olympic gold as a teenager, becoming homeless, making suicide attempts, regaining control of life, and becoming an Olympic champion again. 

Moreover, at the age of 35, Ervin became the oldest Olympic champion at individual swimming events. 

Besides that, he is well known for having a “natural feel for the water in the swimming world.”

Anthony Ervin
Anthony Ervin

Likewise, Ervin has one of the best great-looking tattoos. However, the meaning behind them also carries greater value. 

Besides sports, he has always been there for social causes like charities, children’s camps, and motivational speeches.

Now, before digging more into Ervin’s incredible life journey, let’s have a look at quick facts. 

Quick Facts

Name Anthony Lee Ervin
Date of Birth 26th May 1981 
Birth Place Santa Clarita, California, USA
Nick Name Tony
Age 42 years old
Gender Male
Religion Judaism
Nationality African-American
Ethnicity Jewish
Horoscope Gemini
Profession Swimming
Height 6’3″ (1.91 m)
Weight 80 kg (176 lbs)
Body Mass Index (BMI) 22.0
Build Athletic
Hair Color Black 
Eye Color Black
Tattoo Yes
Father Name Jack Ervin
Mother Name Sherry Ervin
Siblings Jackie Ervin (brother)
Relationship Single
Education William Hart High school, University of Berkeley
Team Unavailable
Coach David Marsh
Strokes Freestyle
Career 2000-2003 & 2011-present
Olympic Records
  • Rio 2016: 50m freestyle (Gold), 4x100m freestyle relay (Gold)
  • Sydney 2000: 50m freestyle (Gold),    4x100m freestyle relay (Silver)
World Championship Records
  • 2001 Fukuoka: 50m freestyle relay (Gold), 100m freestyle (Gold),
  • 2013 Barcelona: 4x100m freestyle relay (Gold)
Personal Best
  • 50m freestyle (LC): 21.40, Rio (2016)
  • 100m freestyle (LC): 48.33, Fukuoka (2001)
  • 50m freestyle (SC): 20.85, Berlin (2012)
  • 100m freestyle (SC): 46.48, Singapore (2013)
Salary Unavailable
Net Worth $1.5 million
Hobbies Travel, Music, Reading
Social media Instagram, FacebookTwitter, Linkedln
Swimming Merch Book, Cap, Men’s and Women’s Suits
Last Update April, 2024

Anthony Ervin | Background and Personal Life

Anthony Ervin was born in Santa Clarita, California, on 26th May 1981. Moreover, he has a unique family tree. 

His father, Jack Ervin, is African-American and of Indian-American descent, whereas Sherry Ervin is of Jewish descent. He also has a brother Jackie Ervin. 

During his childhood, Ervin was placed in swimming class to use his energy and aggressiveness for something productive.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California in 2010. Later, Anthony graduated from Cal with a master’s degree in sports, culture, and education. 

Likewise, in 2016 Ervin published the book Chasing Water: Elegy Of An Olympian, documenting his career and life.

Later, in 2018, the International Swimming Hall of Fame awarded his book The Buck Dawson Authors Award. 

Good Cause

In 2004, he donated a 2004’s 50 m freestyle Olympic gold medal to raise funds for Philippines tsunami victims. Moreover, he donated $17,000 to Red Cross Tsunami relief fund. 

Similarly, Ervin has already been all over the USA and the world, providing free training swimming camps to children. 

Anthony Ervin
Anthony Ervin at training camp

He is also The USA Council on Racial and Social Justice’s inaugural member and International Water Safety Day spokesperson. 

Likewise, from 2017 to 2018, he was the Tourette Association of America’s youth ambassador. 

Bad Times

After retiring at the age of 22, he got addicted to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. He also suffered from depression, making several suicide attempts. 

He could not rise from the sofa when he was abusing himself after consuming these harmful substances. 

He was also caught in a bike accident due to a police chase after being caught high speeding. 

However, it all changed when one of his friends offered him a job training children at Imagine Swimming School. 

Later, it became a motivational factor for him to return to the international competitive scene. 


Music is one of Ervin’s favorite hobbies. When he was on break from swimming, he even formed a rock band named Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

He also has DJ’ing skills and loves playing guitar most of the time.

Ervin is fond of traveling and has already been to many countries. Moreover, he likes to explore others’ interests and teach people worldwide about swimming. 

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Anthony Ervin | Tattoos 

There is no doubt Anthony Ervin has one of the most great-looking tattoos. Besides, it’s special to him as he got tattoos to reclaim his skin and regain control of himself. 

During an interview with CBS News, he linked inks as a recovery process from the crazy lifestyle he has been living. 

Each of his tattoos has its own meaning. Moreover, most of his tattoos are unfinished to make him remember he is unfinished. 

Anthony Ervin
Anthony Ervin’s tattoos

The first tattoos Ervin ever got were Olympic rings on his shoulder blades. But he mentions it’s fading and should be touched up again. 

However, one of the most amazing body art in his body is a naked Japanese woman holding a dagger in her right hand and balling in another one. 

Likewise, she wears a traditional Japanese necklace, and her legs stretch towards his thigh.

The interesting story is that he wanted to get a large dragon. However, after consulting with tattoo artist Koji Ichimaru, a traditional Japanese tattoo artist, he changed his mind.

As he had his tattoo in Bologna, Italy, they sat down for long hours to complete his art. 

In addition, on his right and left hand, Ervin has covered his whole hand with scales designs of fishes and seaweeds, and plants. 

Moreover, the artwork shows his love and passion for the sea and being underwater as he was fond of water and swimming since a young age. 

Anthony Ervin | College Career

Anthony Ervin attended William Hart High school. Later after graduating in 1999, he was ranked #1 in the country and earned CIF Southern Section swimming MVP.

He enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, for college. In his freshman season, only he impressed everyone. 

He became the first Bear swimmer to win multiple NCCA titles at the individual events since Matt Biondi. 

He won 50m and 100m freestyle titles in the NCAA meet. Likewise, in the Pac-10 Championship, he won 50 and 100 m freestyle in individual events, whereas 200 and 400m freestyle in the relay.

In his sophomore season, he reclaimed his 100m freestyle title in NCAA and 50m and 100m freestyle at the Pac-10 championship. 

Next season he three-peated as NCAA 100m freestyle champion. He also set a new NCAA, Americana, and US Open record, finishing in 41.62. 

Anthony Ervin with Nataile Coughlin at Cal Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony
Anthony Ervin with Natalie Coughlin at Cal Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony

Likewise, he led the Bears to 400 free relays national and conference titles. He also won Pac-10 swimmer of the year in his junior season. 

Later, in 2015 Ervin was inducted into the California Berkeley Hall of Fame by FINIS athlete. 

Anthony Ervin | Professional Career

Early Years

During USA Olympic Trials in 2000 at Indianapolis, Anthony Ervin participated in 50m and 100m freestyle. 

He finished second in 50m freestyle finishing with 21.80. However, in the 100m freestyle finals, he secured 5th position and got into the 4x100m freestyle relay team. 

Later, in the Sydney Olympics, Ervin, alongside Gary Hall Jr., Neil Walker, and Jason Lezak’sk team, the USA finished second behind Australia in the 4x 100 m relay. 

Moreover, it was the USA’s first loss in the event. But he did decent job swimming with a time of 48.89 in the leadoff leg. 

Nevertheless, in the 50m freestyle, he won the gold medal after tying with his fellow teammates Gary Hall Jr for 21.98 in the finals. 

The next year Ervin showed the best performance of his career in the 2001 FINA World Championship winning gold in 50m and 100m freestyle. 

Moreover, to win the 100m freestyle, he broke fellow American Matt Biondi’s record with a time of 48.33. 

Likewise, in 2002 Pan Pacs in Yokohoma, he finished second in 50m freestyle and 4×100 m freestyle. 

However, Ervin retired from professional swimming in 2003, just at the age of 22. 


In 2011, he returned to training first time in 7 years after his last USA Swim meet.

On his return, he won gold in 50m freestyle in Chesapeake Pro-Ann, placing him back in the spotlight.

In 2012, USA Olympic Trails, 12 years later after his first Olympics, Ervin managed to qualify for the Olympics.

At the age of 31, he finished second with a personal best of 21.60 in 50m freestyle. But in the London Olympics, he placed fifth in the finals. 

However, at the 2012 FINA short course swimming championship, he took home two gold after Team USA won the 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay.

Later, in the 2013 World Championship, team up with Nathan Adrian, Ryan Lochte, and Jimmy Feigen, Team USA won silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay. 

In the event, Ervin swam fastest among his teammates, with a time of 47.44. 

Likewise, in 50m freestyle, he secured a place in the finals with a personal best time of 21.42. But he placed sixth in the man event. 

Next year, he won gold in 50m freestyle and finished 5th in 100m freestyle in the National Championship. 

Later, he earned a place in the Pan Pacs USA team to compete in Gold Coast. In the event, he won silver in both 50 and 100 m freestyle. 

Not to mention, 2015 went bad for Ervin, failing to secure place in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay finals. 

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Oldest Olympic Gold Medalist

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ervin won gold in the 50m freestyle with his personal best time of 21.40.

Anthony Ervin waving USA flag after winning 50m freestyle gold medal
Anthony Ervin waving USA flag after winning 50m freestyle gold medal

Moreover, he won the race 0.01 seconds ahead of defending Olympic 50m freestyle champion Florent Manaudou

Anthony Ervin at the age of 35, is the oldest Olympic gold medal winner in individual swimming events

He broke Michael Phelps’s record to achieve that milestone.

Later, he also finished first in the 4×100 m freestyle alongside Michael Phelps, Ryan Held, and Caeleb Dressel

In the 2017 Maccabiah Games, he won 3 gold medals, winning 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, and 4x100m medley relay. 

At 39, he still wanted to compete in Olympics. Later, in the 2002 USA Olympics Trials, he took part in 50m freestyle. 

However, he finished 23rd overall with a time of 22.61 and failed to qualify for Tokyo Olympics.

Anthony Ervin | Earnings and Net Worth


In the 2013 World Championship (LC), Ervin took home $15,000 after winning the 4x100m relay.

Likewise, in the 2012 World Championship (SC), he earned $12,000 after securing two gold and silver medals. 

Furthermore, after winning two gold medals in 2016, Rio Olympics USA Olympic Committee awarded him $50,000. 


In 2013, Ervin signed a sponsorship deal with American swimwear company FINIS. Since then, he has been wearing their swimwear in competitions.

In addition, he was also involved in creating FINIs brand new swimming tech suit known as #Rival 2.0 in 2018. 

Anthony Ervin
Anthony Ervin wearing FINIS caps

He has long-time endorsement deals with Imagine Swimming School. Moreover, teaching students at Imagine provided him the inspiration to compete again in 2011. 

Likewise, he is also sponsored by the food brand Picky Bars.

The estimated net worth of 3 times Olympian Anthony Ervin is $1.5 million to various online sources. 

Anthony Ervin | Social Media Presence

Anthony Ervin is active on social media platforms. Currently, he has Facebook, Instagram and Twitter handles. 

He has over 105k fan following combined in these handles. Moreover, he likes to upload photos and videos of his lifestyle and swimming-related stuff. 

Likewise, Ervin runs a website where he regularly updates his life events. Furthermore, all of his collaborated products can be purchased from his website. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will Anthony Ervin compete in Tokyo Olympics?

Anthony Ervin wanted to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, in the USA Olympics Trials, he failed to qualify after finishing 23rd overall in 22.61 seconds. 

When did Anthony Ervin retire?

Anthony Ervin’s first retirement came at the age of 22 in 2003. However, he returned from retirement in 2011. 

How many Olympic gold medals has Anthony Ervin won?

Anthony Ervin has won a total of 3 Olympic gold medals. Two of them were in 2016 and one in the 2000 Olympics. 

Moreover, in the 2016 Olympics, aged 35, he became the oldest player to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming after finishing first in 50m freestyle.

Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah is an engineer and content writer passionate about sports and athletics. With a background in engineering and a love for all things active, Sanjib brings a unique perspective to the world of sports writing. Whether he is covering the latest trends in sports technology or sharing tips on improving your game, Sanjib's words are always rooted in a deep appreciation for players' hard work and dedication everywhere. In his free time, you can find him hitting the courts or hitting the trails, always looking for new ways to challenge himself and improve his skills.

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