Whether you know of Ricky Berens from the gold medal he won in the 2008 Beijing Games, or perhaps more intimately from when a swimsuit malfunction revealed Ricky’s posterior to the entire world at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, one thing is clear, Berens has made a splash in the sport of swimming both in and out of the pool. And if you still don’t know Ricky, grabbing a new gold medal in London’s 4x200 meter freestyle relay to add to his collection, and helping his teammate Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian in history during the process, chances are, you will.
There are eight lanes in a regulation Olympic-sized swimming, pool and it was during the 2008 Olympic trials in Omaha, where Ricky, who was set to swim in lane 6, received some sound advice from his swim coach Eddie Reese: “Beat the guys in [lane] 7 and 8, and [you] make the Olympics.” When in the final stretch of the heat Ricky glanced at his competition he told me “I got chills when I realized I would.”
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“Beijing was a dream come true,” Ricky told 1st Look. And how could it not be, especially for a swimmer who’s been swimming since the age of 4.
Competing in the men’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay in Beijing with the all-star team of Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Peter Vanderkaay, all Berens thought to himself was, “Don’t false start." "The race was a blur, I swam the 3rd leg, and by the time Vanderkaay was coming in we were already celebrating."
Every Olympic medal guarantees the person who’s earned it a place in the history books. Yet Ricky’s gold medal also tied him to something much larger. Berens’ teammate in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, Michael Phelps, racked up 8 gold medals at the 2008 Summer Games, the most gold medals ever won in a single Olympics.
Berens noted that “Every time a commentator remarks on the feat, I’m a part of that. To be [able] to share the glory, I’m a part of something special.”
And over the last four years, Berens has set out to prove that he still is.
“I’ve taken the foundation and added to it. In 2008 I was 20 years old, I was still in college, now I’m a vet,” Berens said. Continuing to train like the consummate professional he’s always been, Berens now worked with coach David Salo, and began to look toward London with a new attitude.
“In 2008, I was the underdog. Nothing was expected of me. Now, I’m expected to perform so there’s pressure not to let anyone down,” Berens told 1st Look. But Ricky also added that, “I’ve achieved the goal, and I have nothing else to prove now. Now, it can be fun.”
So now in London, with a grin that stretches from ear to ear, Berens, who captured a silver medal and another gold, and who for a second time in as many Summer Games has made monumental Olympic history with teammate Michael Phelps, continues to prove that he can do both.