CHARLOTTE — For the first time since he graduated in 2006, Ricky Berens on Thursday walked the hallways of South Mecklenburg High School, where his favorite class was a film and literature course.
The Olympic gold medalist stopped by the school to sign autographs and visit with students.
"It's fun to be back. It brings back some good memories,” he said.
Berens won gold in Beijing and again this past summer in London, where he also picked up a silver medal.
"I've accomplished everything I wanted to in swimming," he said.
At South Meck, Berens realized he was among the best swimmers in the country. He broke his first national record at the age of 14.
"You know that's kind of where it really hit me that swimming can take you so many places,” said Berens.
Students said Berens' success is contagious
"You look at him just like an everyday student that you would just see walking by," said senior and swim team member Maddie Barnhart.
Teachers who remember Berens say they always knew he would be successful.
"He always turned his work in on time, and I think he was meant for greatness. When he swims in the Olympics I get on the phone and call everybody on the East Coast," said Elvyn Irwin, who taught Berens in an American literature class his junior year at South Meck.
Whether or not Berens swims for gold in 2016 is still an open question.
"Four years is so long away, so far away. I can't picture it, in four years, so I'm taking it year by year,” said Berens.
Berens said he is planning to compete in major swim meets in 2013, including the world championships this summer.