Erica Sullivan Never Gives Up And Ultimately Stands Tall

Erica Sullivan Never Gives Up And Ultimately Stands Tall

The eyes of the swimming world were on Katie Ledecky as she swam to victory in the 1500m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics for her fifth individual gold medal yesterday.  While her double was physically difficult, swimming to fifth place in the 200m freestyle final, Ledecky demonstrated her mastery of distance swimming with a several body length lead for most of the race.

What a beautiful swimmer, Ledecky is,” observed Steven Munatones

But my eyes from the perspective of the open water swimming world were on Erica Sullivan.  The 20-year-old from the Sandpipers of Nevada swam such a smart race, finishing much stronger than she started. 

She moved up from fifth position, passing another open water swimmer Sarah Kohler of Germany to earn a silver medal in a best time of 15:41.41.

After years of being disappointed in not making the Olympic team in the 10 km marathon swim, always being defeated by American teammates Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell by ever such slight margins, it was great to see all the hard work and dedication result in standing on the Olympic podium for Erica.  She, her teammates in Las Vegas, and her coach Ron Aitken are so relentless in their pursuit of excellence, despite all the hardships they faced over the last 16 months.” 

In a bilingual press conference after the race, Sullivan explained to the Japanese and world press how difficult the challenges she and her teammates faced when they trained in the nearby Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas.  “It was absolutely disgusting.  There’s duck poop everywhere, and it’s murky.  It’s a solid brown-green on a good day. It’s just gross.  We were getting [bitten by] duck mites.  Apparently they like to eat ducks’ poop.  We were covered in bites.  [But] it built character.” 

Sullivan’s first 500 meters was swum in 5:15.99 where she settled into a position far behind Ledecky and bodies behind Kohler, China’s Jianjiahe Wang, and Italy’s Simona Quadarella.  But then Sullivan – who was forced out of the water for long periods due to pool closures in Las Vegas – started to pick up her pace ever so slightly.  She split a 5:14.2 over the second 500 meters, and then came roaring back like a true marathon swimmer in a blazing 5:11.3 over the final 500 meters, picking up more than 2 seconds on Ledecky and passing her competitors to secure a 1-2 finish for the Americans. 

The other open water swimmers in the 1500m final included Kohler who got the bronze medal in 15:42.91, Kiah Melverton of Australia who finished sixth in 16:00.36, and Anastasiia Kirpichnikova of Russian Olympic Committee who seventh in 16:00.38.

Munatones added, “Sullivan’s progress during these difficult of times is just so impressive.  Her best time in the 1500m freestyle was 16:02.88 in 2018, then a 15:55.29 in 2019 to 15:51.18 at the US Olympic Trials in June to 15:46.67 in the preliminary heats the day before, to a silver medal performance of 15:41.41 yesterday.  She believed – and ultimately achieved when the pressure was on.  Great for her, her family, her team, and her coach.”

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

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