Of the three U.S. swimmers with deep Charlotte connections in these Olympics, two have already splashed around in China: Cullen Jones and Mark Gangloff. Now it is Ricky Berens' turn -- he will swim a leg of the 4x200 preliminary relay for the U.S. tonight in Beijing (about 8 a.m. Tuesday in Charlotte -- watch for results both on this blog and on www.charlotteobserver.com).
If Berens has a great swim, he may advance to the final, where he would join the big dogs like Michael Phelps (who doesn't swim the relay preliminaries to save the wear and tear on his body).
Berens is sort of the opposite of Gangloff and Jones in terms of his Charlotte connections: he lived here basically his whole life until age 18, then left for college. Gangloff and Jones lived somewhere else all their life until at least 2007 (and 2008 in Jones' case), then moved to Charlotte to train under coach David Marsh.
Here's a picture of Berens, who is 20 and a rising junior at Texas these days. He is coached there by legendary head coach Eddie Reese, also the head men's swim coach in Beijing. Thanks to his parents for sending it to me awhile back.
Berens is considered one of the rising young stars in American swimming. In a sport that is growing older -- in part because swimmers can now afford to pursue it into their mid and late 20s -- Berens is one of the youngest men on the U.S. team. He is seen by many here as likely to swim multiple events at the London Olympics in 2012.