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Santa Clarita Swimmers Hope for Olympic Gold
July, 2016 - Issue #141
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

Anthony Ervin and Abbey Weitzeil share many similarities throughout their journeys, starting as the best swimmers in the Santa Clarita Valley to developing into some of the elite freestyle performers in the country.

From winning CIF Southern Section titles in high school more than a decade apart to being teammates on the US roster that competed last summer at the FINA World Championships in Russia, they signify the two most decorated athletes ever to represent Canyons Aquatic Club on an international stage.

Ervin, a 1999 Hart High graduate, and Weitzeil - who concluded her Saugus career last year - will look to achieve similar success again June 26 to July 3 at the US Olympic Trials at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Both swimmers, who are also linked with the University of California at Berkeley program, have aspirations of qualifying for the US national team that will compete August 6 to 13 at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ervin, a 2015 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, completed his bachelor's degree in English at Berkeley in 2010 and recently co-authored a book with friend Constantine Markides entitled "Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian."

"I have no idea if books are selling, but I wrote it and it was a fun process," Ervin said following a May 16 meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, his new training venue in advance of the Olympic Trials.

"I thought it was entertaining and educational to a degree."

Weitzeil, who deferred her enrollment to Cal this year in order to train locally for the Olympic Trials with Canyons Aquatic Club Coach Coley Stickels, could be the next female star for the Golden Bears, following Olympians Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin.

"I ended up choosing Cal because I wanted to be closer to my family and closer to home," Weitzeil said. "It was a really tough decision. But I feel very fortunate."
Although Ervin and Weitzeil both hold American short-course records, where the similarities end is comparing their Olympic resumes.

Ervin, 35, is seeking his third appearance, having competed in 2000 in Sydney and 2012 in London, with the 19-year-old Weitzeil looking to make her Olympic debut.
"I didn't watch swimming in 2004 during the Athens Olympics. The first Olympics I watched in swimming was 2008," Weitzeil said. "I didn't really know what it was like or about."

Ervin was a 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle, tying for first place with fellow American Gary Hall, Jr., in addition to capturing a silver medal as a member of the 400 freestyle relay.

Ervin later auctioned off his gold medal on eBay, with proceeds going to the Red Cross Relief Fund to aid survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

After taking a break from competition from 2003 to 2011, Ervin returned to the sport and qualified for the 2012 Olympics, finishing fifth in the long-course 50 freestyle. Following the Olympics, Ervin set an American record later that year, clocking 20.85 in the short-course 50-meter freestyle.

After swimming 21.42 seconds in the 2013 World Championship semifinals - the third-fastest long-course 50 freestyle in American history - Ervin placed sixth in the final in Barcelona, Spain. He added a ninth-place finish in the 50 freestyle at the 2015 World Championships in Russia.

Ervin, along with Weitzeil, must place among the top two swimmers in the 50 or 100 freestyle at the Olympic Trials to qualify individually to compete in Brazil. They could also be chosen for the American roster by finishing among the top six in the 100 freestyle final.

"I'm just looking forward to the upcoming weeks," Ervin said. "I reflect every hour of every day. I try not to get too hung up on it, just let it balance in my hand and then let it go and focus on the now."

Weitzeil has come a long way since placing 51st in the 100 freestyle and 79th in the 50 freestyle at the 2012 Olympic Trials, establishing herself as a legitimate contender to win both events along with Stanford's Simone Manuel.

Weitzeil, who once held the American short-course standard in the 100-yard freestyle, broke the 50-yard freestyle record March 5 by clocking 21.12 at the Short Course Championships in Texas.

At the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Qatar, Weitzeil contributed to a world record in the mixed 4 x 50 freestyle relay. She added a bronze medal in the women's 400 freestyle relay at last year's World Championships.
"They are good indications of some things I have worked hard at, and improved on, in my career so far," Weitzeil said. "The people who were on those teams, the ones on the relay in particular that I joined with for these experiences, are a big part of what those medals mean and represent."
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