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Gold again... After 16 years

Sydney Olympics winner Ervin makes fantastic comeback after troubled life

Moments after becoming the first male swimmer to win an Olympic gold in the same event 16 years apart, 35-year-old Anthony Ervin said he would look to make the United States swimming team for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

He may have been joking. Or maybe not.

Ervin won his first gold in the 50 metres freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in a dead-heat with compatriot Gary Hall Jr, before leaving the sport to pursue a love of rock music.

He even sold his gold medal to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

But the one-time rebel swimmer, who got fired from a tattoo parlour during eight years out of the sport between 2003 and 2011 and played the guitar in a band called Weapons of Mass Destruction, insisted he would hang on tight to his Rio gong.

"Well, I'm keeping it for now," said Ervin, who battled drink and drug addiction and even attempted suicide after his Sydney success.

"Who knows what the future holds. I didn't imagine being on the 50 free podium before I was 19 either.

"It's surreal, kind of absurd. When I touched and turned around and saw the one next to my name, I kind of smiled and laughed."

At first, Ervin looked as stunned as Florent Manaudou, who finished in second, at the result.

"You don't think about getting your hand on the wall first," said the American after getting a victory hug from his younger brother Derek.

"You just think about trying to swim the race that you imagine you can do, the one that you've been practising, the one that starts as a dream and it's a plan."

Who knows what the future holds. I didn’t imagine being on the 50 free podium before I was 19 either... When I saw the one next to my name, I kind of smiled and laughed. 

- Anthony Ervin (above)

Manaudou hinted that he may retire after defeat.

"I came here to win, but sport is also about losing," said the world champion.

"I don't know if I will keep swimming, I need a break."

Ervin was humble in victory.

"It just so happened that I got my hand on the wall," he said.

"One one-hundredth of flow and you know, you can't control that. All I control is how I do things."

Manaudou said that as a small child, he had watched Ervin win gold in Sydney and dreamed of becoming a swimmer himself.

"Even though I lost tonight, I am happy that he came back to win 16 years later," he said, but ruled out emulating Ervin's achievement.

"I'm going to take a three-month break and if I want to swim after that, then I'll swim. For the time being, I want to party." - Wire Services.

2016 Rio Olympicsunited statesSwimming