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Ricky Berens Olympic Swim Clinic

 Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2012 11:37 pm

McALLEN — The name Ricky Berens didn’t ring a bell with Sofia Minor.

When Minor’s mother told her Berens, was a three-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion was going to have a swimming clinic Saturday morning at McAllen Rowe, the 8-year-old quickly searched for him on her computer.

Here’s what she found out:

“He swam with (Michael) Phelps,” Minor exclaimed. “I got really excited. My mom said ‘If you’re going to be home bored and not doing anything, you should go (see him).’ ”

Berens won a gold medal in the men’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay alongside Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, and Phelps at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Prior to the three-hour clinic, which was sponsored by the McAllen Swim Club, a young swimmer came up to club coach Roxanne Balducci and asked her where Berens was. He happened to be standing in front of the swimmer. Berens understands he not exactly a household name or face, but that doesn’t bother him.

“Personally, I like coming here and people not knowing who I am,” Berens said. “One of the main reasons I got into swimming was because of these clinics. I was these kids one day, in their same spot, just wanting to learn the basics (of swimming). …I want to show them that swimming is a sport for everyone.”

Balducci, who also coaches the McAllen Memorial Mustangs, were able to bring in Berens by holding a swim-a-thon fundraiser.

“The Olympics are still fresh (in people’s minds) so kids were interested ... this has been the highest turnout,” Balducci said. “Each year, we try to bring a guest speaker to these events.”

Another swimmer, Brian Holmes, a 15-year-old sophomore at McAllen Memorial saw the Olympics and was thrilled to get to learn from hand from one of its participants.

“It’s just exciting to see someone what’s been at the top; it’s inspiring,” Holmes said. “You eventually want to get to the top. It’s not the easiest thing, but you can see that it’s possible.”

Berens reflected on his earlier days, and tried to pass those lessons to the kids.

“You can never imagine where swimming can take you...college, Olympics.”Berens said. “Possibilities are endless.”

Whether it’s Holmes, who was part of the Mustangs teams that have won Class 5A regional championships five years in a row, or Minor, who just took up swimming less than a year ago, Balducci said the objective of these clinics is to find the next great swimmer.

“You want to stride, be the first Olympian from the Valley,” Balducci said, “and that’s the message that we want to stress. Be great.”