Ricky Berens learns of golden opportunity on Twitter

Ricky Berens learns of golden opportunity on Twitter

By Erik Brady, USA TODAY

OMAHA — Opportunity used to knock. These days, sometimes, it tweets.

Bob Bowman, coach of Michael Phelps, tweeted Monday morning that Phelps was going to drop the 200-meter freestyle from his Olympic program. That opened the door for Ricky Berens, who’d finished third in the event at the Olympic trials.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” Berens said Monday night. “Michael and Bob, they’ve given me a huge opportunity.”

Berens tweeted thank you to Bowman — “and he tweeted back, ‘Happy Monday,’ ” Berens said.

So, was this a vote of confidence in Berens’ ability?

“You say it like that and it makes me feel really good about myself,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think it had anything to do with it. I’m sure Michael, he has his own mission. He, if anything, from what I’ve heard, he wants to make that (4 by 100) free relay a gold medal again. He was looking out for Team USA.”

Bowman said Phelps scratched the 200 free in part to keep Phelps fresh for his relays. Berens was already on the Olympic team for relays but this opened the door for him to swim an individual event.

He said he called his parents, his brother, his sister, his coaches. No one answered. He was bursting with news.

He tried to find his girlfriend, Rebecca Soni, a fellow Olympian, and ran into Missy Franklin and her coach, Todd Schmitz. He asked if they’d seen Rebecca.

“And they said, ‘No, why?’ And I said, ‘Phelps just scratched, I’m in!’ ”

When he found Soni, she was happy and “caught off guard.” When he saw Phelps Monday night, he wasn’t sure what to say: “So I just said, ‘Thanks, man.’ ”

Berens won gold in the 4×200 relay in Beijing. He is deeply pleased to swim it as an individual event in London.

“I’m going to make the best of it,” he said. “The 200 free is one of the deepest fields in the world. It’ll be one of the most fun things I’ll ever do.”