Erica Sullivan says Olympic medal still feels like ‘fever dream’

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

When Erica Sullivan entered the Olympic Village in Tokyo, the American swimmer was just happy to be there. The 21-year-old says that all changed when her roommates started bringing home medals.

Sullivan shared a room with Stanford’s Regan Smith, University of Wisconsin’s Phoebe Bacon, and University of Virginia’s Alex Walsh, Kate Douglass and Emma Weyant.

“It was just heightened college life, but you’re at the Olympics and you’re not partying, you are just there for a job,” Sullivan tells Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.

Once the Games got underway, Sullivan remembers her roommates started to bring back medals, beginning with Weyant’s silver medal in the 400m medley, followed by Smith’s bronze in the 100m backstroke.

“I kind of felt the pressure during the last few days there,” remembers Sullivan. “I look at Regan in the morning because we are on plastic beds side-by-side around two feet apart, and I am like ‘Regan, I want a medal.’”

The Team USA star also recalls waking up on the day of her 1500-meter freestyle final feeling confident that she would perform.

“I woke up that morning on finals day being like, ‘Yeah you’re gonna do it, you just have to do it like you want it more than anyone else,’ and luckily it worked in my favor and I did it.”

The moment is still sinking in for Sullivan, who captured the silver medal behind fellow American Katie Ledecky, clocking a time of 15:41.41.

“It was crazy, it didn’t feel real. It honestly still feels like a fever dream,” says Sullivan, “I don’t have the medal here with me anymore — it’s in Vegas at home — so I kind of forget about it sometimes.”

Luckily, Sullivan now has a tattoo of the Olympic rings to remind her of her silver-medal run in Tokyo.

“I have the rings tattooed on my side now, so sometimes when I am getting ready for swim practice, I’m changing in and out of my swimming gear, I am like, ‘Oh, you did do that didn’t you? That’s crazy.’”

Hear more from Sullivan on her Olympic journey on the latest Just Women’s Sports podcast.