Anthony Ervin knows all too well what itâ€™s like to be stared at and alienated for something uncontrollable.
Before he was a famous swimmer and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ervin was just a kid trying to cope with Tourette Syndrome, as his overpowering motor tics would draw negative attention from others.
â€œItâ€™s like an itch that constantly wants to be scratched,â€ he told For The Win. â€œWhen I was a preteen and a young teenager, it was really just these bursts of additional nervous energy that came out through mostly my eyelids and other facial expressions.â€
But after years of dealing with the unwanted attention, something he once struggled with when he was younger turned out to be one of his greatest strengths behind the blocks at the Olympics.
â€œWhen I was with those seven other guys in an Olympic final and theyâ€™re all freaking out and thinking about how theyâ€™re being viewed and gazed upon by all these people back in their countries â€“ all these people around the world â€“ with me, I knew what these jitters were,â€ said Ervin, who won his first gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Olympics when he was 19.
â€œI was very familiar with them. I didnâ€™t need to be thrust on such a big stage in order to feel that anxiety. Itâ€™s something that I coped with daily as a youth, so I felt a little more comfortable in that environment. And I really think that gave me a particular kind of edge when competing on that kind of a stage.â€
Swimming also helped the sprinter manage his facial tics growing up. He learned through his teens and 20s how to give the effects of the neurological disorder space to escape his body.
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