When Michael Andrew swims at the U.S. Olympic Trials next month, it will be nearly eight years to the day after he signed his first endorsement contract at age 14, cementing an already road-less-traveled path in the sport.
Andrew navigated sometimes choppy waters over the last two Olympic cycles, but he is right where he wants to be at this point.
Andrew had what could be considered the most impressive swims of his career on Thursday in Indianapolis.
In the morning, he took .32 off his personal best in the 100m breaststroke, one of three events where he has a strong chance to make the Tokyo Olympic team.
In the evening, Andrew went another .15 faster, clocking 58.67 seconds to win at the last Tyr Pro Swim Series meet before Trials. It’s the second-fastest time in American history, trailing only Kevin Cordes‘ American record 58.64 from 2017.
Full results are here. The meet continues Friday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 6 p.m. ET.
“It’s a huge time,” said Andrew, who broke more than 100 national age group records through his teens. “But, overall, I still feel like there’s so many things I can still adjust to be faster for Trials.”
The top two per individual event at Trials in Omaha make the Olympic team. Since the start of 2019, Andrew is now ranked first in the nation in the 100m breast and second in the 50m freestyle and the 200m individual medley, an unusual combination for a swimmer who has always done things his way.
His coach and father, Peter, is a former college swimmer and Naval diver from his native South Africa.
His mother, Tina, competed as “Laser” for several years on the Great Britain version of “Gladiators.”
Along with younger sister Michaela, the family used to road trip to swim meets across the country in a black 2014 GMC Savana Presidential Edition full-size van.
Andrew was home-schooled from the fifth grade. He practiced solo, too, in a two-lane, 25-meter pool in the family backyard in Lawrence, Kansas, until moving to California in 2018.
His unorthodox, race-paced training was scrutinized — typical sessions of 2,500 to 3,000 meters, about one-third the amount logged by typical elite swimmers, though he has recently added distance.
“We went through a lot of interesting feedback from the swimming world,” Andrew said at his breakout competition, the 2018 U.S. Championships, where he won four national titles and qualified for his first major international meet.
In 2019, Andrew was glad to make the finals of every 50m event at the world championships, but sad not to win any individual medals. Three of the 50m events aren’t on the Olympic program. Work still needed to be done.
He appeared back on track in early March 2020, winning the 100m breast at a Pro Series meet in a personal best. He beat a field including every other American to make an Olympic or world team in the event dating to 2013. Andrew was a favorite to make the Olympic team.
Later that month, the Olympics were postponed. Andrew still swam like an Olympic team contender so far this year, clocking the U.S.’ fastest 200m IM (though slower than his March 2020 time) and holding his own against Olympic favorite Caeleb Dressel in a 50m free last month.
In between, he spent three weeks training at the American Renaissance Academy on Oahu for three weeks.
Andrew swam on another level on Thursday. It’s up there with the best swims of his life, but not at the very top.
“It still doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Andrew said. “The goal is to now replicate this swim at Trials.”
In other events Thursday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger edged Regan Smith in a matchup between the U.S.’ top two 200m butterfliers. Flickinger clocked 2:07.41, overtaking the 19-year-old Smith in the last 50 meters and winning by .54. Smith, the world record holder in both backstrokes, could also swim both butterflies at Trials.
Olympic bronze medalist Leah Smith won the 400m free, as expected. Emma Nordin took second, twice going under her previous personal best on Thursday. Nordin, a 21-year-old from Arizona State, has taken 2.33 seconds off her best time this spring and ranks fourth in the U.S. in 2021.
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