PHOENIX, Arizona, November 1. RICKY Berens has returned to his alma mater at the University of Texas, and on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show he discusses the reasons why he wanted to return to Austin.
Berens, who was part of the winning 800 free relay at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, talks about working on deck with coaches Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik, and what he contributes to the Texas men's team. He also looks back on an emotional Olympic Games, which included swimming in the individual 200 freestyle and watching girlfriend Rebecca Soni win the 200 breast in world record time. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is The Morning Swim Show for Thursday, November 1st, 2012. I'm your host, Jeff Commings. Today in the FINIS monitor is two-time Olympian Ricky Berens. He's back at the University of Texas as a volunteer assistant coach for the men's swim team and Ricky joins us right now from Austin. Hey Ricky good to see you. How are you?
Ricky Berens: Good, good.
Jeff Commings: It must feel good to have the Burnt Orange gear back on.
Ricky Berens: It feels great. I've always worn it but it's good to be surrounded by it.
Jeff Commings: Yes, that's probably the big difference. USC probably didn't like it too much when you were wearing the Texas gear.
Ricky Berens: No, I always got some odd looks wearing Texas stuff.
Jeff Commings: So what prompted the move back to Austin?
Ricky Berens: You know I missed it a lot, and for me I'm at that kind of point where it's kind of a great time to start planning life after swimming a little bit. I'm going to continue swimming and then helping out the team but I might go back to school, I think that's the biggest thing, I might go back and get my Masters in Sports Management and for me Texas is the place to do it.
Jeff Commings: So within that everything you just said, you said you're going to continue swimming, so does that mean you're taking back that retirement announcement you made after the relay in London?
Ricky Berens: Yes, that whole retirement lasted a total of like seven weeks I think. It was a good retirement but I've been back in the water. I'm still very busy, I'm moving, doing a lot of appearances, going out of the country here and there, but I'm back in the water full-time when I'm here training and my first meet back will be Nationals here in December.
Jeff Commings: So you said you were out of the pool for seven weeks, were you serious about that retirement and if so what prompted you to say “Well I think I'm going to get back in”?
Ricky Berens: Really it was just — I'm here in Texas, I might as well have the opportunity to help out the team, be a volunteer assistant, and what better way to help them out than being able to train with them and do those sorts of things.
Jeff Commings: What exactly does a volunteer assistant coach do?
Ricky Berens: I'm kind of figuring that out. I'm doing a little bit of coaching, I'm coming into practices and wherever Eddie and Kris need me, I'll be there on the pool deck with them. I like to just help those guys out as much as I can, little things, technique, turns and from the pool I can kind of see things Eddie and Kris can't see out of the water so just kind of a little bit of coaching, a little bit of swimming.
Jeff Commings: How does it feel to be on deck with Eddie and Kris instead of in the water taking all of their – everything that they give you?
Ricky Berens: It's different because they give you a set and then everybody goes to swim. You don't really get to see what they're saying in the middle of the set so you kind of hear some interesting things, their real opinions on the set and what everybody is doing in that practice.
Jeff Commings: Do you ever – when you're in the water do you ever tell the kids “Guys, this is the way Eddie and Kris really feel about this set so I'm giving you the inside dish.”
Ricky Berens: No, no, I wouldn't do that. And I'm in that role right now where I'm the coach so I'm on Eddie and Kris' side.
Jeff Commings: Yes, I'm sure that's the best side to be on unless if you're swimming for them now. So how does the team look this year?
Ricky Berens: They look great. We lost some big guys in that class last year but being here, being around the team, they're all a great group of guys and people said we had a weak class come in as freshmen or weaker for Texas and seeing those guys getting out there in practice it's really — they don't miss a step in that class and I'm excited to see how those guys do. I think the sophomores have a very great class with Clay and Kip and Jake and all those guys and seeing them stepping up and I think they'll take a step to be the big leaders on the team.
Jeff Commings: You were part of the last national championship team that Texas won back in 2010 and now as a coach how do you kind of convey to the guys on the team what it's like to win and how do you help them get back up to the top?
Ricky Berens: You know, every team is different and we kind of we grew through our four years of college and you come in every single year saying this is going to be the year, this is going to be the year and something different happens and I don't think there's one specific thing we did that made us better than the next team than the year before but I feel like there are a lot of qualities that our team had and this isn't – I'm not coming here to change the team or to be like this is what we did, this is what we did in 2010, you guys need to do this. I want to be here for those guys if they have any questions or to bounce ideas off of and try to continue that tradition in Texas swimming.
Jeff Commings: It probably feels weird though that you'll be going either watching or coaching at the dual meet and not being able to jump in with them.
Ricky Berens: Yes, it's definitely a different perspective. It was weird being in the stands last year at NCAAs and watching that all go down because you want to get in the pool, you want to go swimming with them and help them out. But I'm excited to be a part of it again and to feel like I'm part of it and can help them out any way I can.
Jeff Commings: Let's go three months back to the London Olympics. It was your second time around, obviously the perspective that you might have had on the Games changed than your first one, but specifically in what way?
Ricky Berens: I was older, I was more mature, that first time around it was just — everything was just so exciting, it flew by. I remember little bits and pieces here and there but like it's harder to remember all the big exciting things because it just flew by. This time around I really made sure to take it all in, for example like sitting on the medal stand, standing on the medal stand, and hearing our national anthem being played and seeing that flag go up and looking to my right and seeing my entire family, my mom crying on the front row stands and just kind of little things like that that it really made me excited and I was very close with the team, in 2008 I didn't really know any of those guys, I was the rookie, that was my first big international trip and to be there with Michael and Ryan and some of the rookies that we'd actually been around for a couple of years now, it was just cool being a part of that whole team and feeling like all those guys were my teammates and friends now.
Jeff Commings: Outside of winning the gold in that 800 freestyle relay, what moment or experience from the Olympics stands out for you the most?
Ricky Berens: Being able to swim that individual event was a huge, huge deal. It didn't go as well as I wanted to, that's for sure, swimming the finals at the Olympic Games would have been incredible. But to have a chance to walk out of there in front of 18,000 people and hear them all cheering and knowing that it's just you, it's incredibly fun to walk out there with three other guys on a relay representing USA, but it's a whole different world to be able to walk out there representing — knowing it's just you representing USA for that event and that was something very, very special for me to do and I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life.
Jeff Commings: I'm not sure if Rebecca Soni agrees with that. She'd probably want you to say that her winning her gold medal and breaking the world record was a top moment for you.
Ricky Berens: Yes, now that you bring that up I have to say it was pretty good. That was – I have never seen so much excitement come from her before, the reaction after her race, we were all so excited. It was funny because I watched the entire race with a giant video camera right in front of my face the entire time so I had to make sure I didn't do anything stupid because I knew I was going to be on TV. But after 2009 when she lost that world record, that's just been her goal ever since and to see how hard she has worked for that and seeing her every single day and seeing what she does and what she does to make her swimming career better, it was just so well deserved.
Jeff Commings: Yes, to me it still stands out as one of the top five moments and like you said it was a little shocking to me, she's usually very subdued but when you break 2:20 you've got to just let it all out.
Ricky Berens: Yes. That was awesome, I don't think I've ever seen her this pumped up before.
Jeff Commings: That's great.
Ricky Berens: Unless she's mad at something.
Jeff Commings: Now kind of go with me here. We at Swimming World we were kind of wondering if there was going to be any way that a swimmer could one up what Matt Grevers did proposing to Annie Chandler at the Grand Prix meet. We were all thinking maybe when she got her gold medal you were going to walk out there and propose to her in front of the world, and when you didn't we were all a little bit sad but I don't know if that had ever crossed your mind.
Ricky Berens: Well the world we live in today everything – people can contact you the easiest way on Twitter and I was literally getting hundreds of messages a day telling me to do that. I think if I ever asked Rebecca to marry me at a swim meet she would probably say no.
Jeff Commings: She's not one for those public displays.
Ricky Berens: No, we like to keep our personal life pretty personal.
Jeff Commings: That's understandable. Well, Ricky I'm sure it must be great being back in Austin as a Texas alum, as a Texas ex I'm only just a little bit jealous.
Ricky Berens: It's great to be back here. I'm missed it a lot. Austin is a great city, and it's great to be back with the burnt orange.
Jeff Commings: I'm sure it is. Ricky thank you so much for joining us. Welcome back to Austin and we'll see you at Nationals.
Ricky Berens: Thank you.
Jeff Commings: All right, that's Ricky Berens joining us in the FINIS monitor today. And that's going to do it for today's show. As always we remind you to check in with us on swimmingworld.com, on Facebook or on Twitter for the latest swimming news. I'm Jeff Commings, thanks for watching.
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