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Today is the final day of the first round matchups from the Pappy Waldorf Region. Olympian and all-around great citizen Anthony Ervin battles the face of Save Cal Baseball, Stu Gordon. Check out the recently updated bracket here.
The feel good story of the US Swim trial, Anthony Ervin is again an Olympian. After winning a gold medal in the 50 freestyle at the 2000 Olympics, Tony (his preferred name to friends) retired in 2003 (after the end of his Cal career) when he was 22 years old to explore "other interests".
After joining a rock band in New York and various other youthful exploits (that some articles try to make a bigger deal than others), he eventually found himself teaching swimming to kids in both New York City and Oakland. Last year he began training again, and qualified for London by finishing second in the 50 free (by narrowly edging out fellow Cal bear, Nathan Adrian). Between his colorful sleeve tattoos and a more slender body type, Anthony stands out in the pool.
Also of note, Anthony auctioned off his 2000 Olympic gold medal on eBay to aid survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Anthony did eventual finish his Cal degree in English in 2010 and is now currently in the Cal graduate program for sport, culture and education.
Event: 50 freestyle
2nd time Olympian (In Sydney 2000 Olympics won gold in 50 Free and silver in 4x100 Free relay)
Cal career: 1999-2002
A great sentimental comeback story (which NBC will surely milk in the Olympics), Anthony won a gold back in 2000 and proceed to take almost a decade off from swimming. After teaching kids to swim an year ago, Ervin decided to make a comeback and was able to finish second in 50 Free (narrowly edging out Nathan Adrian by 8/100th of a second).
Anthony's slightly different training method/mentality is nicely explained in this USA Swimming article here. Interestingly, the article also conjectured about the success of Cal swimming:
Cal Swimming has long been at the forefront of alternative training approaches. Which could explain why they are – and have been -- so successful. Their two most individualistic and strongest personalities, Ervin and 29-year-old Natalie Coughlin, are also two of the sports most inventive, innovative thinkers. They tinker. They ask. They learn. They reflect. It’s no secret they both are still involved in the sport at an age once considered "ancient."
Read more about Anthony in this SFGate article here.
Grantland has the following interesting short blurb about him:
Enigmatic 31-year-old who won gold and silver in Sydney, retired from swimming in 2003 at age 22, and sold his gold medal to raise money for the Indian Ocean tsunami relief. (Lost his silver medal during his notoriously nomadic travels.) Returned to competition last year. Has such poor eyesight that a competitor had to tell him he had qualified; when Brendan Hansen congratulated him afterward he squinted and responded, "Who is that?" Speaks in full paragraphs, but also says things like "I just want to keep this fun train chugging."
Gordon arrived in Berkeley for the fall of 1958 and joined the freshman baseball and basketball teams hot on the heels of varsity baseball's 1957 College World Series championship and on the precipice of varsity basketball's 1959 NCAA title. For good measure, Cal's 1958 football season ended with the Pacific Coast championship and a trip to the '59 Rose Bowl. The superlatives spill out when Gordon describes the coaches he had the privilege to play for at Cal. "George Wolfman was just a lovely man, Pete Newell was an institution, and Rene Herrerias, our freshman basketball coach, was a wonderful guy," Gordon said.
After struggling with his grades as a freshman while playing both basketball and baseball, Gordon left the hardwood to devote more time to his studies and a more focused effort on baseball. The choice paid off, as he logged 18 credits in the classroom and a 7-0 record on the mound with a low ERA to complement his higher GPA in his junior year. One of Gordon's fans in the stands happened to be the dean of admissions at Boalt Hall, who urged him to consider law school. Gordon, determined to ensure options beyond his Major League dreams, took his advice and was accepted to Boalt, becoming president of his first-year class and eventually, the student body.
After his graduation Gordon continued to be an ardent supporter of the Bears, but one that most people probably had not heard off until last year when Cal Baseball was slated to be eliminated from the university's sports program. Stu Gordon stepped up to the plate and not only donated a substantial amount of money, but also became the face of the Save Cal Baseball effort. In mid-April, that dream was realized.
On April 9, 2011, Cal baseball, a tradition that dates back to 1892, was saved from elimination caused by financial constraints at the University of California-Berkeley. For seven months, players, supporters and alumni struggled to contemplate life without Cal baseball. In February, Gordon & Rees Founding Partner and former Cal baseball pitcher Stu Gordon took control of the Save Cal Baseball campaign. In less than six weeks, donations and pledges jumped from $1.5 million to over $9 million, reinstating Cal baseball in 2012 and crediting Stu with saving the program. As Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told the San Francisco Chronicle, "It would not have happened without him."
More than 1,000 people contributed to the campaign and 40 people contributed more than $50,000, including more than $100,000 from former Major League MVP Jeff Kent, $50,000 from agent Scott Boras, and $550,000 from Stu Gordon that gave the fundraising effort inspiration and momentum. Chancellor Birgeneau described Stu’s efforts as "phenomenal" but, as Stu explained to BerkeleySide.com, "It’s still our goal to get up to a $20 million endowment so Cal baseball can be self-supporting."
Twice in recent years, Stu has been named the Carl Van Heuit Cal Baseball Alumnus of the Year and currently serves in an appointed position on the Athletic Director’s Advisory Board. His donations to the University have helped make possible the new Cal baseball field and outdoor multipurpose complex. He is also one of the founders of the Bear Backers, an organization which raises more than $8 million each year to support athletic programs at the University. If baseball had been lost, said Stu, "it would have been such a bitter disappointment…I was amazed at how emotional people were."
The Bears went on to make the College World Series and continue to play today and in the future thanks to Stu Gordon. A true Golden Bear on and off the field.
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