Michael Andrew Earns Credibility, Faces Pressure After Nationals Breakthrough

michael andrew
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By David Rieder.

Each time Michael Andrew has clinched a national title this week in Irvine, the ensuing post-race celebration has been a bit more muted than the last. After beating out Caeleb Dressel to win his first-ever national title in the 50 fly, Andrew jumped skyward, punched the water and screamed. Following his 50 breast win, he still splashed in celebration but not with as much force.

And after he took down a strong field to win the 100 breast Saturday evening, there was no substantial reaction. He took off his goggles, shook his head in disbelief and clasped his hands together. Not that he wasn’t excited, but the concept of winning a national title wasn’t so novel anymore.

But even though both 50-meter wins secured Andrew spots to swim at next year’s World Championships, it was the success in the 100 that was the bigger landmark accomplishment. None of the 50-meter events are contested in the Olympic Games, giving them secondary status on an international level.

Andrew doesn’t see it that way.

“I think for the spectators and the people that write things, it maybe gives me a little more credibility because it’s a 100, but, it’s not why I do it,” Andrew said. “I’m super-stoked that it is a 100, it’s an Olympic event, and it’s what got me a spot on the Tokyo team (for the Pan Pacific Championships), which is ultimately what we’re here for. It’s cool.”

After his first win in the 50 fly, a race which Andrew said was “the first race where I cried afterwards,” he stated that “my ultimate goal is to be the best in the world at all four 50s.” The 100s, he added, can come after that.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

And while dominating all four 50s would be an astonishing and landmark accomplishment, just one of those, the 50 free, is an Olympic event, and USA Swimming ultimately judges success off the Olympic Games alone.

Now, with his 100 breast success, Andrew will be thrust into a far more critical position. The best American swimmer at any 100-meter stroke event also holds 4×100 medley relay responsibilities. That’s a relay with an extensive American tradition of success—U.S. teams have never lost that race at an Olympic Games.

Andrew will head to Pan Pacs as the No. 1 100 breaststroker in the country—and also, ironically, the most internationally experience—he has swam at the World Junior Championships in 2015 and 2017 and at the Short Course World Championships in 2016. Andrew Wilson, the runner-up in the 100 breast, has only the World University Games on his international résumé, and should third-place finisher Devin Nowicki end up on the team, he would a Team USA rookie.

None of the breaststrokers who swam on last summer’s World Championships team—Kevin Cordes, Cody Miller and Nic Fink—qualified for Pan Pacs. So that makes Andrew the odds-on favorite join a star-studded squad consisting of three Olympic gold medalists for the Pan Pacs medley relay.

It’s worth noting, though, that Andrew’s winning time Saturday was 59.38, which ranked him ninth in the world this year. It took 59.24 to qualify for the World Champs final last year, and at those World Championships, Cordes set the American record in the event (58.64) before winning silver in the final.


Andrew Wilson and Michael Andrew after the men’s 100 breast final — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

But Andrew is confident in his abilities to deliver a big performance when the team is counting on him for relay duty.

“You swim the fastest on relays because you’re swimming for the team, and I’ve been able to experience that a couple time in the World Junior Champs,” he said. “It fires me up. I know how fast I swam there, and I know there’s certain things I can still improve on to get faster.”

Andrew has swum in the spotlight for years, since he became a professional at just 14 years old. Even when he had just an outside shot at qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, he was in the spotlight. Now, as a fully-fledged member of Team USA for the first time, the pressure and scrutiny will only increase.

But after his three wins so far at Nationals, he feels validation.

“I do feel like this is kind of the kickstart of my adult professional career,” Andrew said. “I definitely think it gives me a lot of credibility.”

Still, given the competitive nature of U.S. swimming, the American selection procedures for major meets and all that’s at stake as far as medley relays, Andrew will always have something more to prove. And come Pan Pacs, Team USA will be depending on him.

Video Interview with Michael Andrew: