Swimming against an idol
Douglas High swimmer Justin LoPresto initially wasn’t sure if it was worth traveling to Alaska in late February to compete in one meet was going to be worth it.
LoPresto said it took him a week to decide if it was all worth it.
Then he found out two-time Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin was going to be at the event.
When LoPresto finally made the trek out to Anchorage, Alaska, he found out Ervin wasn’t just going to be at the event, he was going to be competing in it.
“I would say that it definitely ramped up my competitiveness,” LoPresto said. “At first I was kind of nervous. I was surprised he didn’t seem quite as big as he seemed on television.”
Ervin, now age 38, won his first Olympic gold medal in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics in the 50-meter freestyle, becoming the first African-American swimmer to bring home a gold medal.
The Olympian decided to stop swimming competitively in 2003 before qualifying for the Olympics in 2012 and eventually winning his second 50-meter freestyle gold in 2016 in Rio, becoming the oldest individual Olympic gold medal winner in U.S. history.
Ervin took that record from LoPresto’s other swimming idol, Michael Phelps.
Along with the initial nerves of competing in a event just over 3,000 miles away from home, LoPresto said he spent the start of the event just trying to figure out how the event worked.
After looking back on the Aqua Dog 50-meter free sprint tournament, the Tiger swimmer said the decision to trek north was worth it for him.
LoPresto finished third overall and was able to compete against Ervin in two 1-on-1 races.
In the men’s 50-meter freestyle, Ervin finished first in 22.63 before LoPresto tapped the wall in 24.46.
The Douglas swimmer said his goals for the event changed once he realized he was going to be competing against one of his idols.
“Well, that was the goal and then Anthony Ervin decided to swim in it and then my goal was just to try and beat him,” LoPresto said.
Not only did LoPresto get to swim against Ervin, but the Tiger junior sprinter also said he got to chat with the Olympian outside of the pool.
Though his parents and his swim coach needed to give him an initial push to go, LoPresto said the event was absolutely worth it in hindsight.
“It was honestly a really good experience. It was exhilarating kind of. I feel like it helped me mentally in a way and made the trip worth it,” said LoPresto.
His biggest takeaway from the event was the ability to compete against one of his idols and noting that the road to the Olympics starts in relatively the same spot for everyone.
“Just the realization that everyone started at the same spot and everyone does go to the same meets,” LoPresto said. “It’s not like the Olympians are put high up on the shelf where no one can touch them.”