Ricky Berens waves to the crowd before the men’s 100m freestyle final during the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix at Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 13, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
By Phil Minshull, Special to Universal Sports
Ricky Berens’ famous butt-baring episode at the 2009 World Championships will never, ever, be truly forgotten but he can take heart from the fact that his sporting achievements have already outweighed his other minor notoriety.
Berens tore the back of his body-hugging swimsuit in a qualifying heat of the 4x100m relay freestyle in Rome after bending over to stretch before going to his blocks.
Nevertheless, Berens got the job done despite the extra bit of water resistance and a slight loss of modesty. Team USA made the final where they went onto take the gold medal.
“I kind of freaked out for just a second. I felt like the hole was almost down to my knees. I felt like I was putting on a pretty good show,” jokes Berens nowadays.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Italian capital is replete with statues wearing a lot less than some shredded swimwear, the show has continued to be on the road since that incident.
Berens contributed to a 4x200m gold medal five days later in Rome, with Team USA clocking a still-standing world-record 6:58.55.
After making his name four years ago at the last Olympics in Beijing when he swam a crucial third leg for the winning 4x200m freestyle team he has also been member of triumphant quartets in the same relay discipline at the 2010 Pan Pacific Champs and 2011 World Championships.
Now, after being a loyal member of the relay teams, he wants to make a name on his own. At next week’s Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, which last for eight days from Monday, he is bidding for a place in the 100m and 200m individual freestyle.
His best chance seems to be at the longer distance, where he is seeded fourth for the two London slots; behind his Beijing 4x200m team mates Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay.
“Making the Olympics is by far the hardest part, the Olympics themselves are the fun part. It’s the easy part, that’s kind of when the pressure is off,” commented Berens on Wednesday.
“When I was going for 2008, I was a huge underdog. I think the only people who expected me to be in the Trials finals were me and the coaches. I think that took a lot of pressure off because no one knew who I was. I could sneak up on people and put myself in the finals. That was a lot fun. Now, I’m expected to be there.
“This time around, I’m hoping it’s going to be more relaxed because I’m a little more confident, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.
“I think there will be a lot of pressure because I’ve been there before. I’ve been on the Olympic team and on the national team since then, so I’m kind of expecting myself to be up there, fighting for an individual spot and definitely a relay.”
After inadvertently displaying his rear end to the world three years ago, Berens now knows this is the moment to kick some butt instead.