I attended the first 5 days of the 2016 Olympics and it was a Truly Amazing experience. Rio is one of the most Beautiful cities in the world, it has a festive atmosphere, the events were world class and it was a pretty safe environment. It was a party on the beach watching the best athletes in the world. Where else would you rather be for an Olympics?
To start our series we are going to pay tribute to a man that finished writing his real life movie script, Anthony Ervin. 16 years between individual gold medals, he stands alone as the fastest man on the planet. A life path that went from suburban swimming to a gold medal to drugs, women, weight gain, soul searching, teaching/coaching, to swimming again and being on the top of the world. WHAT A STORY!
We sat down with Anthony last fall, below is the recap of the interview:
Talking with Anthony you get the feeling he is a cerebral guy that thinks beyond laps in a pool. Having over a 4.0 in high school and attending Cal he had to be smart, but he thinks on a cerebral level about body placement and flow. He has been involved with inner city swimming and spent a few years in the eclectic city of New York. Issues substance abuse, not working hard and leave from swimming are well publicized, but to me it seemed like someone realizing there is life beyond a pool and trying to live it.
A collection of thoughts from talking to Anthony:
Flow with the water, feel like you are swimming down hill and a rope is pulling you through the water coming from your head.
Working with Mike Bottom on his front-end catch/reach took him from a good swimmer to an elite level swimmer.
Discussed his age group coach who was a little harsh, and tough compared to his high school coach, Steve Neal, whom he responded well. Steve is one of the most positive people you will ever meet and his constant encouragement helps you feel like you can do it. When I questioned Anthony on which type of coaching he thought was better, he stated it depends on the swimmer. He has seen some people that need someone yelling at them to motivate and get them to maximize their abilities.
From 11-14 Anthony hit a plateau and considered quitting swimming, his older brother encouraged him to stick with it and pursue swimming in college. This was around the same time he transitioned from a backstroker to a freestyler. He wanted to pursue trying to go as fast in the water as he possibly could. Freestyle was the stroke.
Every tattoo tells a story so I asked for a PG13 tattoo story. He stated the Olympic rings were a rite of passage to join the ranks of Olympic swimmers. Anthony and a few other swimmers went and obtained them together.
He mentioned a few eclectic bands that I would love to hear, but forgot their names and we do not have video to bring back the names.
During the clinic he emphasized all parts of your body working together and flowing with the water. Drills:
One of the drills to emphasize this was a swordfish scull timing your hips to each scull.
He emphasized reach. We call half army crawl stretching forward catching, fingertips down, and pulling back about a ¼ to your chest, with a flutter kick.
Another drill was swimming, purposely timing your kick to your pull. It is similar to an old school two beat kick. This emphasizes using your core and tying your body together.
Body up to swim down hill: This is a drill similar to head up freestyle, but you focus on your body. Begin swimming vertically, and then continue to press your chest down until your head and body are fully submerged underwater. It gives you the feeling of swimming downhill.
It is all pretty simple right; flow with the water, extend to use your body working together and feel like you are swimming down hill. I am being sarcastic, swimmers like Anthony have been trained at a high level since they were children and have some of these things embedded in muscle memory. However, a swimmer of every age and ability can apply these principles and it will help them make improvements.
Watching Anthony swim, listening to him speak, you can tell he puts thought, focus, feeling, intelligence and efficiency into his swimming. If you watch someone swim you can obtain glimpses of their personality from their stroke and how they swim a race. We were fortunate to get to know Anthony a little better and gain a few glimpses into the swimmer and individual. We are rooting now more than ever.