Erica Sullivan Talks 2021 Adversity, 2024 Plans on Just Women’s Sports Podcast

Erica Sullivan Talks 2021 Adversity, 2024 Plans on Just Women’s Sports Podcast

Erica Sullivan Talks 2021 Adversity, 2024 Plans on Just Women’s Sports Podcast

Olympic silver medalist Erica Sullivan has talked at length about her path to the Tokyo Games, through the death of her father, her battles with mental health and three deferments of college eligibility.

But on the Just Women’s Sports podcast this week, Sullivan detailed a more immediate threat to her dreams of swimming Tokyo: A bout with COVID-19 in December 2020 that set back her training heading into the Olympics year.

Sullivan had entered 2020 with momentum and feeling good about herself with six months to go to what was assumed to be Olympic Trials. But even after successfully navigating the disappointment of the Games’ postponement, her body landed her in a polar opposite position 12 months later after contracting the virus around Christmas.

“Christmas 2020, I had COVID and I was out for two weeks,” Sullivan told host and U.S. women’s soccer player Kelley O’Hara from her dorm room at the University of Texas. “I come in in January out of shape, can’t breathe, horribly ill, frail, I had a swim meet in San Antonio in January just to see where we were, and my coach actually had to take me out of the 1,500, because he didn’t think I was going to finish. And I’m pretty sure he cried when he did that because he thought it was over.”

Sullivan, representing Sandpipers of Nevada, went 8:38.46 in the 800 freestyle at the TYR Pro Swim Series stop in San Antonio in January, but she didn’t swim the 1,500.

Sullivan discussed “fear and terror” going into U.S. Olympic Trials, which was her first meet of significance since the start of the pandemic. Though she emerged from it with a spot on the Olympic team that would ultimately lead to silver in Tokyo, she also picked up a case of bronchitis before the national team headed to Hawaii for a pre-Tokyo training camp.

Sullivan and O’Hara, a two-time World Cup winner with the U.S. who won bronze in Tokyo, discussed a wide range of topics, including their personal lives (both women identify as queer). Sullivan explained her plans for the next Olympic cycle. A freshman at age 21, after decommitting from USC, she hopes to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024. But she hopes to retire after that, shifting her attention to her non-athletic career goals, namely in filmmaking.


“I think with swimming … you just spend so many hours in the pool that it’s really hard to maintain both (interests). I feel like right now I’m at a stage where I’m maintaining both, but I really want to make leaps in the film industry and really, really hone in on it like I do with swim. I got to at 20 go to Olympics No. 1. Hopefully at 24 I can go to Olympics No. 2. But by the time I’m 24, I think it’s more so time to transition into film if I really want to make any impact there.”

Listen to the full Just Women’s Sports podcast here.

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