Olympics

Sweet tweet lets Berens know he's in 200 freestyle

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP)

Good news traveled fast on Twitter for Ricky Berens.

That's how he found out he would swim the 200-meter freestyle at the London Olympics after Michael Phelps announced Monday he was scratching the event.

Berens had finished third at the trials, making him the first alternate. The 24-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., learned he would take Phelps' spot in a tweet sent by Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman.

''I have some big shoes to fill,'' Berens said. ''Michael and Bob have given me a huge opportunity. I'm not going to take that for granted. I'll clean up everything these next three weeks and make sure I make USA proud.''

Berens said it was a half-hour after Bowman's tweet that he got official word from USA Swimming that he would be in the 200 free.

''Bob's word is pretty good,'' he said, ''but I was surprised he was dropping the 200 free.''

During those 30 minutes he tried to call his family, but there was no answer. Busting to tell someone, he went looking for his girlfriend, Olympic breaststroke champion Rebecca Soni, who was in the hotel spa.

''She was kind of caught off guard,'' Berens said.

Berens ran into Phelps on Monday night when the Olympic team was introduced at the end of the trials. It made for an awkward moment.

''I didn't know what to say,'' Berens said. ''Do I say thank you?''

Phelps wished him good luck.

Berens, who won gold on the 800 free relay in 2008, already was planning to swim relays in London.

''To swim it individually is a whole different race and, if anything, it's going to be an experience and one of the most fun things I'll ever do.''

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TARWATER AN OLYMPIAN: The domino effect of Michael Phelps' decision to scratch the 200 freestyle, and Ricky Berens' move into Phelps' spot, continued with Davis Tarwater becoming a first-time Olympian.

Tarwater had finished seventh in the 200 free at the trials, one spot out of consideration for relays. The 28-year-old went home to Charlotte, N.C., believing he was finished with swimming.

That changed with Berens' move up to the 200 free, which created openings on the 400 and 800 relays.

Tarwater was munching on pepperoni pizza when his coach, David Marsh, called to tell him that he needed to return to Omaha as soon as possible and join the U.S. team for a workout Tuesday.

''Is this real? Is this for real?'' Tarwater asked Marsh.

''This is real. You're an Olympian,'' Marsh said.

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LONG RACE, CLOSE FINISH: Andrew Gemmell and Connor Jaeger became first-time Olympians after their 1-2 finish in the 1,500 freestyle.

Gemmell and Jaeger were even coming into the last 50 meters, with Gemmell touching in 14 minutes, 52.19 seconds. Jaeger's time was 14:52.51.

''After getting third last year at open-water trials, I didn't want to feel that feeling again,'' Gemmell said. ''I tried to remember that all year for training and finally come here, and it feels amazing.''

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JOYCE REJOICES: Kara Lynn Joyce cried tears of shock and joy in the mixed zone after coming in second to Jessica Hardy in the 50 freestyle.

The 26-year-old from Athens, Ga., qualified for her third Olympics but will swimming an individual event for the first time.

She got off to a disappointing start at the trials, failing to make it out of the preliminaries in the 100 freestyle.

She was fourth in the 50 at trials in 2008.

''I did my best to visualize and prepare my body,'' Joyce said. ''It was my one chance to lay it all the line for this 50. I can't believe I did it.''

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STAY SAFE, KIDS: After securing his spots on the U.S. Olympic team over the weekend, Cullen Jones spent the last day of the swimming trials talking about the importance of water safety.

Jones is the national spokesman for Make a Splash, the child-focused safety campaign of the USA Swimming Foundation and Conoco-Phillips.

''You wouldn't allow your child to be in a car without a seatbelt or to play football without pads, but parents allow their kids to go to the pool without swimming lessons,'' Jones said. ''We want parents to understand you don't want to just send your child because there are 500 kids and two lifeguards. You don't want to allow your kid to go there without the proper tools.''

Jones said the time around the Fourth of July is especially dangerous because many celebrations include pool parties and outings near lakes and rivers and at the beach.

About 10 people drown every day in the United States, and more than one in five victims are under 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Omaha, a 6-year-old girl died Sunday after being pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool at an apartment complex. She was the third child in three weeks to drown in the Omaha area.

''These drownings are preventable. It's two words: swim lessons,'' Jones said.

Make a Splash has partners in almost every state that provide free or low-cost swimming lessons for children.

Jones makes several Make a Splash tour stops each year, and more than 1.2 million children have participated in Make a Splash events since 2009, he said.

At each tour stop, Jones meets with first responders, gives a talk to children about water safety and invites a few kids into the pool for a short lesson.

Water safety is a personal issue for Jones, who nearly drowned at a Pennsylvania water park when he was 5.

His mother, who didn't know how to swim, signed him up for swimming lessons after his close call.

Jones said he's thankful his mom saw the value in lessons.

''A lot of times when parents have a traumatic incident, they try to shield their children from it - like fire is hot, stay away,'' he said.

Jones said he was hesitant around the water after his scare and that it took him several tries before he overcame his fears. He eventually asked his mom to sign him up for a swim team.

He won a gold medal in 2008 as a member of the 400 relay team and will swim the 50 and 100 freestyle in London.

''When I saw my first race when I was 8, I kind of fell in love with the sport and this is something I wanted to do,'' Jones said. ''My mom said if I was going to start, I couldn't stop in the middle.''

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GOOD LUCK WISHES: Fans of the U.S. Olympic team can help improve training facilities by posting good luck messages to the athletes online.

For every message posted as part of the Support the Dream program, Hilton HHonors will donate $1 worth of amenities - up to $250,000 - to help refurbish Olympic training facilities. The items include beds, pillows, sheets and towels to ensure the athletes have a comfortable place to relax after training.

Through Aug. 12, fans can send their well wishes at HHonors.com/SupportTheDream. HHonors, the loyalty program for Hilton's 10 worldwide hotel brands and a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team, is giving away prizes each time the U.S. team wins a medal in London.

Among the prizes is a meet-and-greet with Michael Phelps.

The good-luck messages will be streamed for athletes to see on a wall at USA House during the 17 days of competition in London.

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ATTENDANCE UP: Attendance was up 2.8 percent from 2008, when the trials were held for the first time in Omaha.

The total for the eight days was 164,585, compared with 160,063 in 2008. Three of the 15 sessions sold out. The per-session average was 10,972.

Tagged: Michael Phelps

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