Michael Andrew on Fire and Full of Confidence On Way to Critical Olympic Trials

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Michael Andrew reacts after winning the 100 breast at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Michael Andrew on Fire and Full of Confidence On Way to Critical Olympic Trials

In 2020, Michael Andrew appeared poised to finally put the pieces together, fulfill his massive potential that he had flashed since he was a young teenager and storm his way onto his first Olympic team. At the TYR Pro Swim Series in Des Moines, Iowa, in March, Andrew swam lifetime bests in two of his signature events, the 100 breast (59.14) and 200 IM (1:56.83). That turned out to be his last meet before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and shut down the sports world.

After competition resumed, Andrew struggled to return to his previous splendid form from the spring. During the International Swimming League bubble, a racing-heavy short course format suited to his skillset, Andrew finished in the top three just nine times in 25 individual races over the course of the season and recorded just a single victory. Andrew said of that ISL experience, “I was very physically unready, which was unfortunate.”

His first few long course meets of the 2021 season were solid but nothing spectacular, as he topped out at 22.13 in the 50 free, 1:00.03 in the 100 breast, 52.43 in the 100 fly and 1:57.98 in the 200 IM. Then he swam Thursday morning at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis and provided a jaw-dropping moment: He became just the third American man to break 59 in the 100 breast, and the first in almost four years.

Andrew’s morning time of 58.82 broke Adam Peaty’s Pro Series record, and in the final, he swam a 58.67 that broke the U.S. Open record and missed Kevin Cordes’ American record by just three hundredths. Andrew jumped up to fourth in the 2021 world rankings, a tie for 11th all-time and into the status as favorite in the event for the U.S. Olympic Trials next month. For Andrew, the swim was a validating moment and a surge of momentum heading into the all-important test.

“It’s huge,” Andrew said after the race. “I felt like I had a lot of confidence, even with the 1:00.03 I swam in Coronado the other week. So bringing that into this with a really fast pool, really good atmosphere, it’s been huge. Going to Trials, we’ve got three and a half weeks. It’s exactly what we needed, what I needed, but overall, just really thrilled. We’ve been putting a lot of work into this, physically, mentally, spiritually, doing everything we can, no stone unturned, and to see it come together like this, it’s just really nice.”

The following day, Andrew would swim a 50.80 in the 100 fly, breaking 51 for the first time and moving to second in the world this year. World record-holder Caeleb Dressel remains the heavy favorite in the event at Olympic Trials, but Andrew actually swam faster than the 51.15 Dressel posted at the Atlanta Classic. Andrew will certainly be a favorite for the No. 2 spot at Olympic Trials.

On the meet’s final day, Andrew won the 200 IM in 1:56.84, a slim one hundredth off his lifetime best from last year and good enough to cement his status as a favorite to qualify for Tokyo in this event, too. Andrew moved to fourth in the world in the event, and he is the fastest American in 2021 by more than two seconds.

The difference in his swimming in Indianapolis compared to his previous meets since the post-pandemic resumption, Andrew said, was consistency in his training, which had been lacking at times over the past year due to circumstances related to the pandemic. Sometimes the answers are very simple and straightforward, particularly in a year with as much global turmoil and uncertainty as the last one. Simply finding a way to get back to his normal helped put Andrew back on track.

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Michael Andrew at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Andrew’s 100 breast holds a little extra weight because of the potential impact for a 400 medley relay. It’s no secret that the American men have struggled on the breaststroke leg of that relay for a few years. Securing that leg is essential if the Americans hope to continue their run of success in the 400 medley relay at the Olympic Games. The event has been contested at the last 15 Olympics, and the Americans have won 14, with the only exception coming during the boycotted 1980 Games. Andrew swimming a 58 right now provides a spark, and more U.S. men could follow at next month’s Olympic Trials.

Olympic Trials could be a career-defining week for Andrew, an opportunity to display his unorthodox training style and career plan while in his prime with the entire world watching. But for right now, Andrew was more than content to call his 100 breast one of the best swims of his career, even though he acknowledged he will be gunning for the American record in short order.

“I feel like the next step is trying to get that American record, and then obviously, I want to break some world records,” Andrew said. “My goal is now to replicate this swim at Trials, make the team, and do well for the U.S. I haven’t really thought about where it sits on the list of my best swims, but it’s up there because it’s a huge time, I’m really happy with it, and I think we can really grow from here and get into a good position going into Trials.”


Linnea Mack Suddenly in Relay Contention

One month ago, Linnea Mack owned a 100 free best time of 54.78, solid but not enough to place her among the top contenders to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 400 free relay. After Thursday, her name is certainly in the conversation. Fresh off swimming a 54.06 at a time trial last month, Mack swam a 53.78 in the 100 free prelims in Indianapolis to qualify as the top seed for the final, and then she took first in the final with a 54.00. Mack’s 53.78 made her the seventh-fastest American during the Olympic Trials qualifying period.

Speaking after the race, Mack described her recent breakthrough as a product of years of training and preparation that built to this point.

“I feel like it’s not just the work we’ve done in the last months. It’s just building on the work we’ve done in the last year and the years before that. I honestly think COVID, for me, was kind of a blessing in disguise, and it really gave me an extra year to kind of put the pieces together and have another year to build on,” Mack said.

“It’s right where I want to be, and it’s right where I knew I could be. It was kind of always in the back of my mind, but I think now, it’s becoming a little more real, and I’m excited to see what happens.”

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