'I'm multicultural, queer, a lot of minorities': Erica Sullivan wins silver at first-ever women’s 1500m freestyle

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Japanese American swimmer Erica Sullivan has made history after winning second place in the first-ever women’s 1,500-meter freestyle on Tuesday at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Big win: Sullivan, 20, finished the 1,500-meter freestyle in 15:41.41, 4.07 seconds behind gold medal winner and fellow Team USA member, Katie Ledecky, according to USA Today.



  • Sullivan, whose mother is a Japanese citizen living in the U.S., said it’s “so cool” and “awesome” to go on the podium and receive the silver medal in Japan "as an Asian American" and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, TODAY reported.

  • She's also honored to set a landmark for women alongside Ledecky at the historic freestyle swimming competition.

  • Sullivan called the six-time Olympics medalist a “cool human being” and a “legend,” adding, “The fact that I get to swim in the same generation as her is so wonderful.”

  • The 2020 Tokyo Games is Sullivan’s first Olympics.

  • When asked if she could catch up to Ledecky, Sullivan told Team USA, “Do you know who that girl is? Hell, no."


Other details: The Las Vegas-native athlete charmed local media with her fluency in Japanese.

  • "I’m multicultural. I’m queer. I’m a lot of minorities. That’s what America is," Sullivan, who came out publicly in 2017, said at the press conference after her match. “To me, America is not about being a majority. It’s about having your own start. The American dream is coming to a country to be able to establish what you want to do with your life."

  • Sullivan’s father, John, was a swimmer at the University of Wisconsin. He died from esophageal cancer in 2017 when Sullivan was 16, Swimming World Magazine reported.

  • Her late grandfather on her mother’s side was an architect on some of the venues for the Tokyo Games.

  • Sullivan struggled when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, especially with her training for the Tokyo Games. She recounted how the pools were temporarily shut down and led her to train in Lake Mead outside Las Vegas. The lake was riddled with duck mites.

  • Her family watched her performance in Las Vegas because the Olympics committee placed a ban on spectators at the Games.

  • “It's surprising and it's really cool that everything just happened to line up and work out," she said. “My mom would've loved to be here, but she's at home in Vegas cheering us on."


Featured Image via Getty

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