There’s more to life than swimming — but Ricky Berens isn’t ready to go there yet.
Two months after Berens unexpectedly retired from the sport after winning gold in London, the 24-year-old confirmed to the Observer he’s returning to competitive swimming.
“I am back swimming again,” Berens said. “I will be full time in the next couple weeks.”
That’s good news for fans of one of the sport’s most popular athletes, but even more so for Charlotte’s burgeoning swim community.
Alongside Melvin Stewart, a three-time medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Games, Berens is considered one of the best swimmers the city has ever produced.
Dave Marsh, head coach at SwimMAC where Berens once trained, said he wasn’t surprised by Berens’ sudden announcement in London, or by his return.
Marsh was an assistant U.S. Olympic coach when Berens declared his retirement at the London Aquatics Centre. Berens spoke just moments after he helped propel Michael Phelps to a record 19th medal.
It was Berens’ second Olympic gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay and third overall in two Games.
Berens said he was “finished” and spoke of moving on to challenges outside the pool, including graduate school.
“I think emotionally he was retiring, just like a lot of Olympians do afterward,” Marsh said. “It’s important athletes continue to reassess if they want to go forward. If they can’t dig deeper and do more, they are really better off moving on to the next thing in life.”
Berens went to South Mecklenburg High School and has a finance degree from the University of Texas. This week, he announced he would join the college team as a volunteer assistant coach.
Prior to the Olympics, he had trained at USC, along with his girlfriend and Olympic champion Rebecca Soni.