American Anthony Ervin, 35 years old, wins 50 free by .01 seconds

Nothing in swimming captures the power and intensity of a race like the men's 50-meter freestyle. It lasts for less than 24 seconds for all swimmers, and the guys are pushing so fast you can barely see them amid the wake, waves and splashes.

On Friday night, we got another incredible Olympic story. American Anthony Ervin, who is practically ancient in his sport at the age of 35, dramatically won the gold medal in the 50 free by out-touching France's Florent Manadou by .01 seconds.

In winning, Ervin becomes the oldest male swimmer to ever win an individual event. Ervin is the second-oldest swimmer at the Games.

"Oh boy, I just feel the overwhelming support of all of my people," Ervin said on NBC. "I won that for my team, my country and my people. ... Maybe a piece of me really wanted to see if I could get that medal back -- make it a little bit harder on myself. I got it."

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Anthony Ervin, 35, wins a thrilling 50-meter freestyle by .01 seconds USATSI

His incredible push capped off an amazing night for America in the pool. Gold in three of the four medal events went to the United States -- and Michael Phelps' event, shockingly, was the only one that didn't end in gold for Team USA.

Ervin swam 50 meters in 21.40, beating out Manadou, the reigning Olympic champ in this event. Fellow American Nathan Adrian -- who was plenty capable of winning gold in this event -- got bronze with a 21.49 sprint.

This brings Ervin's Olympic career full circle. He won the 50 free at the age of 19, at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He left the sport for eight years, yet was able to work his way back to the top. It's simply amazing. Also amazing: Ervin's time on Friday night bested his swim in Sydney by .24 seconds. And his gap of 16 years between winning gold medals is tied for the longest ever.

Team USA heads into Saturday night, the final night of Olympic swimming, with 29 medals in Rio, 14 of them gold.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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