London’s Calling: Ricky Berens and Conor Dwyer

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 16. THERE is no doubt that relays are often the most exciting events to watch at the Olympics: four swimmers, battling head-to-head against world-class competitors, running the risk of false starts, order shuffles and slow legs all fighting against last-second surges.

Today, Swimming World takes a look at two athletes that have contributed much to Team USA's relay efforts. Both will swim on the men's 4×200 freestyle relay, and both will have a chance to make their mark individually in London. Without further ado, we present to you: Ricky Berens and Conor Dwyer.

Ricky Berens:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

“You can officially call me a relay swimmer…. again,” Olympian Ricky Berens told media with a self-effacing laugh after the finals of the 100 freestyle in Omaha. Dripping wet, he had just finished fourth in the event, finishing high enough for a spot on the men's 4×100 relay, but not high enough for an individual swim. The same was true in the 200 freestyle earlier in the week, when Berens touched third.

This seemed to be the pattern for Berens. With a third-place 2008 Trials finish, he earned a swim on the prelims 4×200 relay in Beijing. He ended up posting the fastest split, capturing a spot on the final relay. Berens nabbed a Gold and a World Record in the relay, along with teammates Peter Vanderkaay, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

But what about individual swims? Before a surprise announcement via Twitter, Berens might have re-lived his Beijing line-up in London.

Instead, Berens received word that he would have the opportunity to swim the 200 freestyle when Phelps' coach Bob Bowman (@coach_bowman) posted the following Tweet:

“@MichaelPhelps will be removing the individual 200 freestyle from his Olympic program.”

After some serious Twitter talk, USA Swimming eventually confirmed the scratch, and Berens (@RickyBerens) expressed his excitement:

“Words can't describe how I am feeling right now. If Twitter is right, I am swimming the 200 free at the Olympics!!!!! This is nuts!!!”

In preparation for Trials, Berens told the Charlotte Observer, “I'd love to swim at least one individual event this time around in the Olympics. I've been to too many international events where all I do is sit around, watch a lot of great swimming and just get to swim in one relay.”

London is now Berens' chance to have his thus-far elusive individual swim.

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Berens swam his collegiate career under Eddie Reese at the University of Texas at Austin. Although he had no individual NCAA titles, he was part of the 800 freestyle Championship relay his junior and senior year. As a captain his senior year, he was part of the Longhorn team that won their 10th National title. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Los Angeles to train with Dave Salo at the Trojan Aquatics.

The finals of the men's 4×100 relay are set to air July 29th, the men's 200 freestyle is the following day, and the 4×200 relay on July 31st.

Conor Dwyer:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

The men's 400 freestyle at Trials was a nail-biter. Although Charlie Houchin led the field for the majority of the race, a last-minute surge by his competitors left him in fourth place at the finish. Instead, training partners Peter Vanderkaay and Conor Dwyer nabbed the one-two. Before his spectacular finish less than two-tenths behind Vanderkaay, Dwyer's best 400 freestyle time was over three seconds slower than the time he swam in Omaha.

“I mean I've been down that road before,” Dwyer commented to Swimming World about being behind after the 200. “But I just have to know that my training is there in the back half.”

Dwyer also finished fourth in the 200 freestyle in Omaha, earning him a spot on the 800 freestyle relay with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Ricky Berens. But freestyle isn't the only thing he excels in. If it hadn't been for Olympic heavyweights Phelps and Lochte taking first and second in the 200IM, Dwyer (who placed third) might have added that event to his London line-up.

“One of the good things about Conor Dwyer is he's not afraid to race me and Peter [Vanderkaay], people who have been in the Olympics and had gold medals,'' Lochte told the Chicago Tribune about his training partner. “I think that is what really helped him out that last 200 [of the 400 freestyle]. He has been in our faces every day in practice, and it showed.”

Before training with Vanderkaay and Lochte at the Gator Swim Club in Florida, the Illinois native started his collegiate career at the University of Iowa. He swam with the Hawkeyes for two seasons, then transferred to the University of Florida under Gregg Troy, where he continued to train for Trials as a post-graduate.

As a collegiate athlete, he took two 2010 NCAA titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle, and placed third in the 500 freestyle in 2011. Dwyer was also honored as the NCAA Swimmer of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

The finals of the 400 freestyle are airing July 28th, with the finals of the men's 4×200 relay on July 31st.

Read the rest of the “London's Calling” Series by clicking on the link below:
London's Calling: Swimming World's Countdown to the Opening Ceremonies

Written and posted by Shoshanna Rutemiller, who wrote her Thesis on social insects, yet finds socializing with swimmers much more rewarding.

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