US swimmer Andrew's unconventional road to Tokyo Olympics

·2-min read
According to plan: US swimmer Michael Andrew will race three individual events at the Tokyo Olympics

Michael Andrew's unorthodox path to swimming's elite ranks will get its greatest test as the 22-year-old tackles three individual events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Andrew has been in the spotlight for a decade, ever since he began rewriting the national age group record book on the way to turning pro at 14.

That meant Andrew, coached by his father, Steve, outside US swimming's vaunted club network, would also bypass that other great factory of champions, NCAA collegiate swimming.

Andrew trains using the Ultra Short Race Pace concept, focusing on short distances at race speeds and foregoing weight training and other land-based exercise.

After capturing his first Tokyo berth with a victory in the 100m breaststroke -- in which he twice lowered the American record -- Andrew acknowledged it felt good to prove the naysayers wrong.

"In a way, it feels great, like I've vindicated myself, yeah, stick it to 'em," he said. "But I realize it doesn't change anything.

"Obviously, we have to continue to perform, but I'm excited for the opportunity to continue to prove what we do is driven by love, purpose and we've got a passion beyond just winning medals."

Andrew's swimming career has been a family affair involving not only his father but also his mother, Tina, and sister Michaela.

He said at trials that after a stressful 2020 it "came to a pont where our family, our team, was about to separate, and a lot of it was because swimming was at the center.

"It took a lot of stepping back and understanding what's the bigger picture," he said of a shift in perspective that had the "whole family back together" to witness his breakthrough at trials five years after he was disappointed as a 15-year-old in 2016.

"It's been five years in the making. Not making that team as a 17-year-old and to come back to kind of rectify that, I'm just honored and blessed."

Andrew has also progressed since then, as two scintillating swims in the 200m individual medley showed.

He posted the fastest time in the world in the past five years in the semi-finals with a 1min 55.26sec.

That made him the fifth-fastest performer in history, behind Lochte, Michael Phelps, Kosuke Hagino and Laszlo Cseh.

He again challenged Ryan Lochte's 10-year-old world record in winning the final and again faded slightly on the final freestyle leg.

"Maybe just a year ago I wouldn't have thought one of my events would be a 200 IM, being a 50 guy," Andrew said. "That hurt, but I'm happy with where it puts me in the world."

Andrew was back in familiar territory in securing his third Tokyo berth in the 50m freestyle.

"Everything worked out according to plan," Andrew said.

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