Michael Andrew Loses Individual Medal Shot After Poorly-Executed Double

Michael Andrew -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Michael Andrew Loses Individual Medal Shot After Poorly-Executed Double

At the 2019 World Championships, Michael Andrew raced in the finals of all four 50-meter stroke events, but he left with no medals to show for his efforts. He finished fourth in the 50 butterfly, a mere one hundredth away from the medals, and then he was seven hundredths away in his fifth-place finish in the 50 backstroke. Two years later, Andrew concluded the Tokyo Olympics by helping the U.S. men win gold in world-record time in the 400 medley relay, but individually, he was shut out again with two fourth-places finishes and one fifth. In the 50 freestyle final, Andrew ended up just three hundredths off the podium.

For this year’s Worlds in Budapest, the third chance for the 23-year-old Andrew to race against premier competition at a long course international meet, Andrew earned himself five chances to get off the schneid and earn that first medal: the 50 freestyle, 50 and 100 breaststroke and 50 and 100 butterfly. Two of those races were 50-meter stroke events, which are not contested in the Olympic Games and viewed as secondary in most swimming circles. Regardless, Andrew set himself up well to contend in Budapest as he was ranked second, third or fourth in the world in all five events entering the meet.

Of course, a busy racing schedule demands doubles, and two pairs of Andrew’s events would be contested on the same days: the prelims and semifinals of both the 50 fly and 100 breast would be on day one, with the final on day two, while the 50 free and 100 fly would line up on days six and seven. Andrew had previously acquitted himself in back-to-back situations at the Olympics, when the 50 free final and 400 medley relay final were in the same session, and then at the U.S. International Team Trials in April when he qualified in the 100 fly and 50 breast just minutes apart, and he threw in a solid 50 back to finish the session for good measure.

But his first attempt at the back-to-back at Worlds? A bust.

Andrew’s 50 fly was fine, a fourth-place mark of 22.87 to secure lane six for the final, and after racing in the first semifinal of the 50 fly, he would go in the second heat of the 100 breast, more than a half-hour later. But he slogged through that race, particularly with a back-half split of 31.91 that was 12th-best in the field. Andrew ended up with a time of 59.63, a second-and-a-half short of his lifetime best, more than a second behind his season-best mark and 0.11 slower than Andrius Sidlauskas’ eighth-place time of 59.52.

He’s the third-fastest performer in history in the 100 breast, and his 58.51 from April still ranks third in the world, but Andrew will not be racing for the medals in the 100 breast Sunday evening. Instead, he will take his chances in the unpredictable 50 fly, where the top five swimmers are separated by 0.15 and the entire field by less than four tenths.

Maybe the 50 fly final goes in Andrew’s favor. Perhaps he gets his individual hardware in another event this week. But this missed opportunity to chase a medal in the 100 breast, to take another step in an event where he showed significant progress last year, will sting. A chance to prove that he deserves the coveted breaststroke spot  on the U.S. medley relays, both men’s and mixed gender? Gone.

The American coaching staff is surely relieved to have some cover in the 100 breast final at this meet with Nic Fink looking like a medal favorite and a contender for gold, but Fink is two weeks away from his 29th birthday and six months from finishing his masters degree. He won’t be around forever. Everyone on the U.S. side is rooting for Andrew to develop into a trusted force in the 100 breast, both for individual and relay duty, but that cannot happen if ambitious racing schedules at major meets continue to backfire badly.

Later on this meet, Andrew is again a medal contender in both ends of his 100 fly-50 free back-to-back. Will that effort again fall flat? If Andrew ends this meet without capturing an individual medal despite diminished fields at these World Championships and five really good chances, he and his father/coach, Peter Andrew, will need to seriously reconsider their approach to these major competitions. Andrew has too much talent and ability for ambitious doubles to prevent his ascension to the podium.

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LD Campbell
3 months ago

He sure gets alot of press for his failures. Step up to the plate and do better.

3 months ago

This article reads as if the author has it out for Michael. Was never a huge fan of Michael, but this article is unnecessarily mean.

3 months ago

Tough schedule for sure. But not as tough as the author is, sheesh.

3 months ago

Hey David, most people don’t even make a final a worlds, and yet you’re here bashing the future of usa swimming for not medaling after making finals in all his events? I hope your chief editor sees this and allows you to grow and not make diminishing headlines for an Olympic swimmer.