Ricky Berens pushes his brand on social media

Ricky Berens pushes his brand on social media

As part of USA TODAY Sports’ “100 Olympic hopefuls in 100 Days” series, prospective U.S. Olympians give their thoughts on the Games in their own words.

Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY

Ricky Berens gets the question a lot: Can he swim faster than his girlfriend, fellow Olympian Rebecca Soni?

A video on Berens’ Facebook page holds the answer.

The two competed in a 50-meter breaststroke race — her signature stroke, one that won her a gold medal in Beijing in 2008 (in the 200) — and Berens out-touched her at the wall. Berens called the video hilarious and wrote a comment on it saying she probably let him win “because she’s so nice.”

The video is a good example of Berens’ personality and social media activity. Between his personal website, Facebook and Twitter (he has more than 9,000 followers), Berens is constantly working on building his brand and expanding his online presence. He also is helping BMW develop its motion tracking system with USA Swimming that will help record, track and analyze swimmers’ techniques.

For the next three weeks, though, he’ll be focused on swimming.

In London, Berens will swim the 200-meter freestyle as well as the 4×100-meter and 4×200 freestyle relay events. He is no stranger to the relays. In 2008, he won a gold medal in the 4×200 with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Peter Vanderkaay, setting a world record of 6:58.56.

But this time, Berens gets to compete in the 200 free, too, his first Olympic individual event. Initially, he didn’t qualify, but when Phelps dropped the event, Berens got bumped up.

He found out by reading a tweet by Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.

It’s not the way I thought I would go about swimming an individual race, but I’ll take what I can get. I thank Bob and Michael for giving me the opportunity. I have some big shoes to fill, and that’s kind of the way I’m looking at it. … I am going to do my best to make sure I’m in that final and putting myself in position to medal.

I feel like in 2008, nobody swam the 200 free. Now, everybody does the 200 free. It’s one of the deepest races in the world and in the U.S., so it’s really tough to be making that team — which is a good thing for our relay. It’s going to be tough getting into the top eight at the Olympics.

It’s incredibly tough. It’s turned from a, you kind of build the first 50 to 100 or so and then start sprinting — it’s turned from that into a full-out sprint the entire time. You’re kind of pushing off that last lap and your body is kind of numb, and you’re already in pain — it’s a tough race.

The Australians are definitely the favorites in that 4×100. The 100 and 400 medley are all going to be really close races. The world has really stepped their game up in the last four years. We have Michael and Ryan — the two best swimmers in the world — but those guys will still be giving us a run for their money. Anything can happen.

When you look at us as professional athletes — as Olympic athletes, especially, because we come around every four years — you have to keep your name out there. You have to make sure people are still recognizing you. It’s your own business and that’s the way you have to market it. Social media — Facebook, Twitter — that allows you to do all that.

I was never a big Facebook person. I get on there every once in a while. Half the time, I always forget about it.