Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Trailblazers: Erica Sullivan
by USA Swimming
For decades, the swim community had been without the women's 1500-meter freestyle on the Olympic schedule. In 2021, the event was finally added, and ended up seeing the gold go to Katie Ledecky while the silver went to her American teammate, Erica Sullivan.
Sullivan stood the Olympic podium in Japan, the country her mom grew up in and the home to numerous members of Sullivan's extended family. Sullivan can speak fluent Japanese and took numerous trips to the country during her summers growing up.
She is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which she detailed in an episode of USA Swimming's Kick Set podcast. Sullivan was the only publicly-out swimmer on the U.S. Olympic Team last summer and used her press conference after winning silver to shed light on the monumental moment.
“Just me getting to be on the podium, in Japan, as an Asian American woman and getting to take silver in a historical women’s event for the first time, as someone who likes women and who identifies as gay — it’s so cool," Sullivan said.
"I feel like I am the epitome of the American person," she added. "I'm multicultural, I'm queer, I'm a lot of minorities in that sense, and that's what America is."
A Las Vegas native, Sullivan grew up training at Sandpipers of Nevada where she competed in numerous pool and open water events. She was a member of the U.S. teams at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships and the 2019 FINA Open Water World Championships and has been on the U.S. National Team every year since the 2017-18 roster. She just wrapped up her first season swimming at the University of Texas, where she was named Big XII Newcomer of the Year and posted a second-place finish in the 1650-yard freestyle at March's NCAA Championships.
Throughout her time in the sport, Sullivan has been an advocate for mental health. She recently shared the mental-health obstacles she has overcome in an ESPN/Longhorn Network feature, which can be viewed below.
To view more, visit Sullivan's U.S. National Team bio. You can also read about her and Ledecky's historic 1500m freestyle swim here.
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