Ricky Berens, mobbed by 500 journalists in Beijing?
I remember when I was the “mob,” usually with an Observer photographer, not-so-crowding Berens as a standout swimmer at South Mecklenburg High.
Berens won an Olympic gold medal in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay Tuesday, with his famous relay pal Michael Phelps. Got some encouraging words from President Bush. Watched the NBA guys playing basketball in the Olympics.
And, he sparked I-know-that-guy pride all around Charlotte.
Berens, 20, was the state's best when he was in high school. He'd often win races by 10 or 12 seconds. Now he swims in an elite college program (Texas) and is being targeted as a hot swimmer for the 2012 Olympics.
As a high schooler, Berens was confident, but not braggy. I remember he'd often talk about the importance of how the team would fare, not just rambling on about his races.
Leslie Berens, his mom, coached at South Meck before Ricky arrived there. She often (and still does) urged me to write about South Meck swimming, but never once said, “Do a story on Ricky.”
It was always about South Meck's chances, or the girls' team, or some up-and-coming crop that was going to make the Sabres a contender.
Today – on an international stage – it's about Ricky. And it should be.
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