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Back 8.10.2018

Star Swimmer Michael Andrew Sees Value in Cycling

Star Swimmer Michael Andrew Sees Value in Cycling

Michael Andrew, 19, just made a big splash at last month’s USA Swimming 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, Andrew hauled in four national titles:

  • 1st Men’s 50m Breaststroke
  • 1st Men’s 100 Breaststroke 
  • 1st Men’s 50m Freestyle
  • 1st Men’s 50m Butterfly
  • 3rd Men’s 100m Butterfly

Photo by Mike Lewis, OlaVista Photography 

Andrew is focused on preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Games and will be incorporating cycling into his training and recovery routine. He stopped by the Zipp office in Indianapolis recently to pick up a new bike, a Giant with Zipp 303 Firecrest Disc brake wheels, Service Course SL stem and handlebars, and SRAM Force 1 HRD drivetrain and brakes. We set him up on the fit bike (he’s 6-foot-6) and talked with him about his life as a professional swimmer. Below is an edited transcript:

What’s next for you?
From Nationals we move into 2019 Worlds and then Tokyo 2020. That’s what we’ve been aiming for the past six years.

You turned professional at a very young age, 14, instead of swimming in high school and college. What went into that decision?

We’ve done things very differently. We kind of follow the beat of our own drum. The way we train is very unique. Ultra-short, science-driven. When I was 14 I signed my first contract to become a professional athlete. I had to give up high-school eligibility, NCAA eligibility. Very quickly we were marked as these crazies who were going pro, giving up the whole college system. We’re very open speaking about why we did it. We’ve done everything as a family. My dad coaches me. My mom’s active…. My sister used to be a training partner. She cooks everything in the house. We operate very much as a team. I feel like if I was to have gone any other path, I don’t know where I’d be.

You live in Lawrence, Kansas. How long has the family lived there?

We’ve been in Lawrence for seven years. Before that, we were in Aberdeen, South Dakota. That’s where mom and dad resided after immigrating to the U.S.

How did you first get into swimming?

My Dad in South Africa grew up swimming…. We were living in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I was very active as a kid. I always had a ball with me, whether it was a football or basketball, jumping on the trampoline, running around. Our neighbor’s daughter swam, and he was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you take Michael to learn to swim.’ I was about 7 years old and really quickly progressed through it. I felt super natural in the water.

Photo by Mike Lewis, OlaVista Photography

You follow an unconventional training program called USRPT (Ultra-Short Race Pace Training). What does your training involve?

Traditional distance work involves drills, kicking with a kickboard…. Lots of fatiguing work. (With traditional training), an average workout would probably be 5,000 to 10,000 meters. For us, a very, very heavy training session would be 3,000 meters. Very rarely do we go over that. The principle behind USRPT is all specificity. It’s being able to train as specific as to what you do in a race. You’re training to (race) pace.

You’re doing such specific high-intensity training. How does cycling fit into that?

We’ve added cycling into our regimen. It’s become a mental thing more than it is physical. I’m at a point where I want to start doing more things because (training) is so repetitive. Adding cycling into the mix, it’s something that gives an extra bit of work for the legs. It’s not heavy impact. It’s something ultimately that’s going to make me stronger and feel more powerful in the water.

What do you do away from swimming to relieve the pressure of competition?

I’m more defined by the relationships I have with my family, and my relationship with Christ, and the people around me. That’s ultimately what lasts. I have other things I do with YouTube, photography, and social media…. We used to be so serious when it came to racing. We’d go to these beautiful countries, we’d just hit the pool and the hotel and then we’d fly home… We’ve started to really focus on taking it in and being present in the environment where we are.

What is it like in the “Ready Room” where swimmers gather before they race? That has to be a tense room!

There’s a couple different kind of athletes. Some athletes are super serious, headphones. Some cope with jokes and talking. I’m typically pretty quiet in the Ready Room. A lot of it is me going through my pre-race routine, whether that’s mental rehearsal going through certain points of the race, or just positive self-talk. There’s a routine I go through just jumping around and staying warm. It’s very tense. It’s nice you don’t have to be in there very long.

Where do you see yourself long term? 

In swimming I see myself racing for my country on the biggest stage (Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and beyond) and being the fastest man in history in all 4 strokes.

I’ll never move away from sports. I’ll always be active, whether it’s swimming, triathlons, or cycling. I’m way too competitive to just do it recreationally once I get into something. 

Follow Michael on Instagram @swimmermichael and on YouTube