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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - No one would blame Anthony Ervin if he walked off into the sunset after triumphing in the same Olympic event he won 16 years ago, but the 35-year-old U.S. swimmer has no intention of slowing down.
Basking in the glow of the gold medal he won a day earlier in the Olympic 50 meters freestyle, Ervin -- now the oldest swimmer to win a men's individual gold -- said retirement was not on his mind and he would keep going for as long as possible.
"I just love the lifestyle, I love swimming, being in the water. It's a sanctuary. And I'm not going to give that up whether I'm the best in the world or completely irrelevant," Ervin told reporters on Saturday.
"I can guarantee you'll see me in Tokyo in 2020, just whether I'm in a suit, cap and goggles, or a suit and tie, we don't know yet...
"I'm just going to keep going until I'm not wanted anymore," added Ervin, who was also a member of the U.S. team which won gold in the 4x100 freestyle on Sunday.
His first gold in the 50-metres freestyle was at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"I actually remember watching Anthony win that gold at 19, when I was seven," said Maya DiRado of the U.S. women's swim team, sitting next to Ervin and drawing laughter from reporters.
In fact, Ervin did retire once: he gave up competitive swimming in 2003 and pursued a love of rock music but returned for the 2012 Games in London.
Ervin said athletes often retire when their competitiveness and the love for what they do is gone, but he hasn't lost any of his drive.
"I'm not talking about retirement. I don't want to go back to that place," he said.
"The competitive part is the end all be all of why I do it."
Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Brian Homewood