Five questions for Ricky Berens, who grew up in Charlotte and won two Olympic gold medals as a swimmer. Berens, 27, retired from swimming in 2013 and now lives and works in Austin, Texas.
Q. So I understand you have some big personal news?
A. Yep, I got married on March 6. I met Elizabeth when I moved back to Texas and was looking for a job. I kept talking to DeLoss Dodds, who was the University of Texas athletic director at the time and who I knew from my swimming career at UT. She worked for DeLoss. So every time I had to make an appointment with him, I had to talk to her, and things progressed from there.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. I work full-time for The Longhorn Foundation (the University of Texas’s fundraising arm). I work on donor relations and special events, trying to grow our brand nationally and internationally.
And I’m in my third semester of getting my MBA at St. Edward’s University, which is also in Austin. I have evening classes twice a week, and all the other nights I’m usually reading or doing some sort of homework. I feel like I’m an undergrad again, when I was swimming all day and going to class in between.
Q. How often do you get in a swimming pool these days?
A. (Laughs). Only when Elizabeth makes me. The only time I can go swimming is at 6 a.m., and I did that for 15 years out of my life. So I usually don’t like to go back to that. I may make it into the pool once a month. Then I’ll do a mile and then I’m bored and I get out.
Actually, I did just commit to coaching a Masters (adult swimming) team here in Austin every Saturday morning. Truthfully, I need to do something to stay in shape.
Q. Do you miss swimming competitions or are you happy it’s over?
A. I’m happy it’s over. I was a bigger fan of swimming than I was of competing. So I still love being a fan. I also love being able to sit on the couch with a beer in hand, watching the swimming instead of competing.
I was very blessed to have the career that I had. I went out on a great note and I have no regrets on any of that.
Q. Now that swimming is in your past, what will you replace it with on a professional level?
A. The biggest reason I retired when I did is just you put off the business world for so long. Because I kept training for the Olympics after I finished college, I felt like I was getting behind in business. Instead of going to get a Master’s earlier, I was in the pool. When I retired at 25, I kind of felt like 25 going on 20.
So now I’m catching up. I would like to eventually be a college athletic director, or the president of USA Swimming, or the CEO of some company. I want to be running a show somewhere.
I had an identity as a swimmer and I achieved the pinnacle. I was at the top, and now I’m back at the bottom. I want to find something that I’m really good at and I want to get back up to the top as fast as I can. That’s just kind of in my blood – to climb. To try to be the best.