Erica Sullivan: Austin’s Olympian

By Katerina Cotroneo – August 1, 2023
All Photos Courtesy of The University of Texas

Gliding through the waves of the pool and pushing past the controversy of the public’s opinions, Erica Sullivan is a wise and strong Olympian. She won silver at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in a crowd of silence and masked teammates due to the pandemic. Not the type of Olympics most dream of medaling at, but she took it with a smile nonetheless because that is the type of resilient woman Sullivan is. “We made the most of it,” she recalled. The UT Austin student is a teammate above all else. She celebrates her cohorts’ wins as her own and looks out for others as if it’s her duty. If Sullivan were in the running for compassion, she would place gold; I have no doubt.

Erica Sullivan

Erica grew up in the canyons of Las Vegas and had an adventurous upbringing. Her dad was also a swimmer in college, and her mom was a scuba diving instructor and athlete growing up. It was written in the stars (and her DNA, frankly) that she would end up an Olympic swimmer. Going from the US national team to the Tokyo Olympics, deferring college, and with extra deference (thanks to Covid), Sullivan is now on her way to Paris 2024 (fingers crossed!), training hard and looking forward to a solid swim season ahead. Austin is lucky to have Sullivan as she is a shining star, a humble great addition to the UT family. She is looking forward to a “regular” Olympics with an actual crowd present, including her family and SANS spitting in tubes daily. “It’s really cool getting to represent Team USA, with 10-20 of your closest friends in a foreign country,” says Sullivan on the chance to go to the Olympics again. Primarily due to the fact they were their own and only cheerleaders last Olympic games. When asked if she was nervous, Sullivan said, “No, I tend to like a crowd, hearing all the energy – It makes it easier to push through the pain, especially in the events that I do” says Sullivan. She does distance. She went to Tokyo for the 1500 meter freestyle, which for the record, is the LONGEST pool event.

Erica Sullivan

This piece is about Erica, not the controversy she has faced, or the people she has swam against. However, I will say one thing she said stuck with me, “people care SO MUCH about women’s sports when they’re there to protest something, but the next race, there was nobody in the stands.” We don’t know what goes on in the pool and out of it as we’re not the athletes. People are attracted to controversy. If you’re not there for every race, why do you get a say for one? Do we REALLY care about Erica and her teammates? Or only when she is at the Olympics do we take pride in her being the American in the pool going for gold. It’s something to think about. I, for one, will be looking at UT women’s swim and dive team’s schedule for 2023/2024 and look forward to watching Erica’s career thrive and cheering her on!

Sullivan has dreams of becoming a filmmaker and telling stories of others. Her mother is Japanese and her upbringing inspired her as her mom studied reading and writing, she observed and fell in love with the art of it. She chose UT Austin because of its incredible film program intertwined with its talented head swim coach and program. She is excited to see where her life takes her after the Olympics. She plans on doing a program through UT that takes her to LA to work on her film career. “I am excited to use what I’ve learned through swim and apply it to filmmaking,” smiling Sullivan says.

Sullivan has fallen in love with Austin, the culture, the people, and the activities. As an athlete during “dry season,” she appreciates all the fun things not surrounded by alcohol. She loves her UT teammates as runner-up national champs. She thinks they get so far “because of their love for each other.” She lives with four of her teammates, and she “knows these girls will be [with her] for life” Sullivan says they push each other to be better every day, and she loves it. She trains with fellow Olympians who are all friends and says, “it’s such a Texas thing” to experience the camaraderie.

Hook ’em, baby! Go Team USA! And best of luck to Erica as she conquers the waters…


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