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Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian

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In advance of the 2016 Olympics, Akashic launches Dave Zirin’s new sports imprint—Edge of Sports—with a dramatic memoir by Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin.

$16.95 $12.71

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What people are saying…

Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides have been named recipients of the Buck Dawson Author Award, presented by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, for Chasing Water!

“Here Ervin and swim trainer and journalist Markides combine talents to create a biography that is part first-hand narrative by Ervin, with Markides filling in the details and providing context. The formula works, pulling readers into Ervin’s experience of the thrill of victory and search for meaning. . . . Featuring more depth, breadth, truth, and the effects of reckless choices than found in traditional athlete biographies, this gripping account is just in time for the gear up to the Rio 2016 Olympics. Readers will understand the psyche and life of elite athletes as never before, then cheer Ervin on in his attempt to make another Olympic team.”
Library Journal

“A celebrated Olympian recounts how he rose to the top of his sport, crashed, and found redemption. . . . This book, which tells his story through a narrative that interweaves the former gold medalist’s memories with commentary by his friend and colleague Markides, reveals the extreme highs and lows that characterized Ervin’s remarkable life and career. . . . The author never flinches at revealing his less-than-perfect past, and the humility he demonstrates at coming to terms with his own egotism and personal shortcomings makes the book frequently compelling. A provocative and refreshingly honest redemption memoir.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Markides smartly combines his own journalistic account with a parallel narrative in which Ervin . . . explains his life and style. Some talents simply defy explanation, however, and Ervin may be in that category. . . . The story of his comeback at 31 (ancient for a swimmer) is rendered more amazing by the contrast with what went before.”

“For Anthony Ervin, the stretch between his two greatest athletic achievements — two Olympic gold medals — included a suicide attempt, a period of homelessness and a stint in a rock band. Jobs found, then lost. Too much drinking, too many drugs. Depression. Confusion. And then, a kind of rebirth.”
USA Today

“An inspiring, humorous and often profound biography.”
People Magazine

Included in USA Swimming’s roundup of Swimming Books for Your Holiday Reads

“Anthony Ervin is a lot of things. He is an open book and a closed circuit, a body fueled by a brain, an old man with a young soul. He is the American Dream. He is, once again, improbably, an Olympic champion.”

“[Ervin’s] story is an amazing comeback tale.”
Huffington Post

“Ervin is easily identifiable in the splash-and-dash race by his sleeve of tattoos on each churning arm. He turns interviews into a discussion on everything from philosophy to Biblical parables. Earlier this year, he detailed his life’s adventures, including drugs and sex, in a book called Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian.”
AP/The Big Story

“The story of Anthony Ervin is awe-inspiring . . . [and] beautifully chronicled in Anthony’s recently released memoir, Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian. Wholly original, it’s completely unlike any sports memoir you have previously read. Featuring arresting black-and-white drawings and a graphic story extra as well as an inventive and mercurial narrative style that morphs chapter by chapter to reflect Ervin’s restless, multifaceted life, it’s an uncommon, must read sui generis sports autobiography.”

“You won’t find many athletes like Ervin, nor will you find many sports autobiographies like his recently published Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian . . . It’s fascinating”
Charlotte Observer

“Anthony Ervin won gold at the 2000 Olympic Games, then auctioned off his medal for charity and retired from swimming in his early 20s. He set off on what’s been described as “part spiritual quest, part self-destructive bender,” then returned to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Now 35, Ervin will swim the 50-meter freestyle in Rio. Here, he tells his story in alternating chapters with journalist and swim trainer Constantine Markides.”
Houston Chronicle

“Most memoirs from Olympians are puff pieces, ghost-written so blandly you fall asleep trying to make it to the end of the first chapter. Chasing Water is the opposite of that, an intimate, visceral experience you will appreciate.”

“This is the story of how Anthony Ervin, a former world record holder, won gold in Rio in the 4 x 100m free and 50m free races. He’s also overcome incredible odds, surviving depression, homelessness, and addiction in the years between his record-breaking 2000 Olympic performance and his comeback in 2012.”
VOYA Magazine

“[Chasing Water] is one of the most honest athlete biographies you’ll ever read. It is Ervin’s story, unvarnished.”
The Red Bulletin Magazine

“A compelling . . . view of an amazing person and successful swimmer named Anthony Ervin . . . Definitely a recommended read.”

“On the surface, a biography about a swimmer with just one individual Olympic gold medal might seem a stretch. Anthony Ervin’s story, however, transcends that shining moment in the 50-meter freestyle sprint at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when he won a relay gold. After becoming the first swimmer of African American descent to medal in Olympic swimming, Ervin auctioned off his most prized medal in order to donate to tsunami relief. He retired from competitive swimming and entered a period of self-discovery that led to some questionable decisions and lessons learned the hard way. He resurfaced in 2012 to make the US Olympic team with a personal-best time, yet finished fifth at the Games in London. Now he’s training for a shot at swimming in a third Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro. His roller coaster ride to this point is told alternately by journalist and swim trainer Constantine Markides and by Ervin in his own revealing words.”
Christian Science Monitor, 6 Eclectic Sports Books

“However one may be compelled to slap a bar code on Ervin—the Charlie Sheen of the U.S. Swim Team may even be in consideration—part of the complex context of his odyssey toward making the 2016 roster this summer comes in owning up to a new book, Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, which Ervin co-writes in an interesting authorship divide with [Constantine Markides], a competitive swimmer himself.”
Los Angeles Daily News

“Just a glance at the cover of the swimmer’s recently published memoir Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, reveals the intensity of Ervin’s career to date. He’s seen looking straight at the reader while in the full lotus pose underwater in a pool. Other swimmers are racing behind him, but Ervin doesn’t see them. The message the reader receives is clear: Anthony Ervin is focused on more than the competition.”
Tricycle Magazine

“[Chasing Water] intentionally shucks athlete biography conventions in exchange for a seesaw of first-person memories written like diary entries (plus some of Ervin’s actual dairy entries) and third-person exposition interspersed with quotes from key characters.”
San Diego Jewish Journal

“Ervin, a former world record-holder, won gold in Rio in the 4x100m free and 50m free races. He’s also overcome incredible odds, surviving depression, homelessness, and addiction in the years between his record-breaking 2000 Olympic performance and his comeback in 2012. His book, Chasing Water, tells the story of those times.”
Miami New Tines

“Touching and heartflet”
Books & Life

“A refreshingly unexpected athlete biography void of eye-rolling, clichéd, self help propaganda bullshit.”
—Gary Hall, Jr., swimmer, ten-time Olympic medalist

“[Ervin] is the most talented swimmer I’ve ever seen . . . He just has amazing feel for the water. He doesn’t power through; he has finesse.”
—Natalie Coughlin, swimmer, twelve-time Olympic medalist

“The most original character in the world of swimming . . . Ervin’s story will inspire, astonish, and challenge your notions of what it means to be an Olympic athlete. Forget the surface-deep stories you see every four years on television, this is the raw wet truth of a monstrous talent with the demons to match. Like Andre Agassi’s Open, it’s a story of mighty potential both realized and abandoned, and found again. Olympic champion, rock ’n’ roll wastrel, cerebral mind, and physical freak, Ervin defies categorization and cuts his own path through a high wire life.”
—Casey Barrett, Olympic swimmer

“Anthony Ervin is not only the most beautiful swimmer in the water I have ever seen, he is also one the great stories of triumph and perseverance in the midst of tremendous adversity. I am so proud to call him my friend and I know his life’s challenges will inspire generations to come.”
—Rowdy Gaines, swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist


The debut title from Akashic’s Edge of Sports imprint.

Every four years in the Olympic cycle the surge of national interest in swimming grows, and with it a desire to be captivated by its stars. This book tells the dramatic, surprising, and sometimes provocative path that Anthony Ervin has taken to become one of those captivating Olympic heroes. Not your typical sports memoir, Chasing Water also contains arresting black-and-white drawings and a graphic story extra, as well as an inventive and mercurial narrative style that morphs chapter by chapter to reflect Ervin’s restless, multifaceted life.

Ervin won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the age of nineteen. He is an athlete branded with a slew of titles including being the first US Olympic swimmer of African American descent, along with Jewish heritage, who also grew up with Tourette’s syndrome. He shocked the sporting world by retiring soon after claiming two world titles following the 2000 Olympics. Auctioning off his gold medal for charity, he set off on a part spiritual quest, part self-destructive bender that involved Zen temples, fast motorcycles, tattoo parlors, and rock ’n’ roll bands. Then Ervin resurfaced in 2012 to not only make the US Olympic team twelve years after his first appearance, but to continue his career by swimming faster than ever before.

At the Rio Olympics in August 2016, Ervin “wrote” the most fitting afterword to his astonishing story, winning two gold medals, becoming the oldest swimmer (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual race, and—in finishing first in the 50-meter freestyle—once again earning the title of fastest human in water.

Political sportswriter and Edge of Sports imprint curator Dave Zirin (the Nation) has never shied away from criticizing that which die-hard sports fans hold dear. The Edge of Sports titles will address issues across many different sports—football, basketball, swimming, tennis, etc.—and at both the professional and nonprofessional/collegiate levels. Furthermore, Zirin brings to the table select stories of athletes’ journeys and what they are facing and how they evolve both in their sport as well as against the greater backdrop of one’s life’s odyssey.

Read an interview with Anthony Ervin at VICE Sports.

Anthony Ervin won two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics! Read interviews with Ervin about his historic win at Today, NBC Olympics, CBS This Morning, CBS Sports, BBC World Service, BBC Sports, BBC News (USA & Canada), Vice Sports, Charlotte Observer, New York 1 News, Reuters, Los Angles Daily News, Los Angles Times, Elbow Room New Mexico, KPCC/Southern California Public Radio, Orange County Register, and Democracy Now! Part 1 & Part 2.

Listen to an interview with Anthony Ervin at CBS This Morning, Swim Faster (Swedish Podcast, hosted by Ola Strömberg), Jim Rome Show, CBS Sports NetworkRich Roll Podcast, and at This Week In America with Ric Bratton

Read a feature on coauthors Constantine Markides and Anthony Ervin at the Cyprus Mail, and The Straits Times.

Click here to read an interview (condensed for space) with Anthony Ervin at the Los Angeles Daily News, and here to read the extended Q&A.

Listen to an interview with Constantine Markides at The Morning Show/WGTF 91.1 FM and Ask A Leader/KUCI 88.9 FM.

Watch a televised interview with Anthony Ervin, Constantine Marides at KNTV.

Read features on Anthony Ervin at USA Swimming, The Times (UK), Detroit NewsCharlotte ObserverTeamUSA.org and Halfstack Magazine. Read the cover story on Anthony Ervin at the Red Bulletin Magazine, excerpted at Men’s Journal.

Read about a Chasing Water event at Literati Bookstore HERE.

Click here to read a feature on Anthony Ervin’s campus visit to Murray State.

Read features on Anthony Ervin at the New York Times and The Dispatch

Watch an interview with Anthony Ervin at Swimming World Magazine:

Watch Anthony Ervin wining the Men’s 50M Freestyle Final at the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, and post-race interview with Ervin in which they discuss his memoir. 

Book Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Published: 4/5/16
  • IBSN: 9781617754449
  • e-IBSN: 9781617754647


ANTHONY ERVIN is an American Olympian who resides in Los Angeles, where he continues to pursue his career as a professional swimmer, speaker, and coach. As the oldest competitor at the 2014 national championships, he won the title in the men’s 50-meter freestyle. He is currently training for the 2016 Olympic team. Chasing Water is his memoir.

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CONSTANTINE MARKIDES is a New York–based swim trainer and former correspondent for the international daily newspaper Cyprus Mail. He has worked with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and was featured on CBC and NPR’s Marketplace. His essays and fiction have been published in various magazines and journals, including Rolling Stone. A high school state champion swimmer, Markides also swam for Columbia University. He is the coauthor of Chasing Water.

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