Q&A with Michael Andrew
Since turning pro in 2013 as a 14-year-old, the youngest American ever to do so, Team USA swimmer Michael Andrew has asserted himself as a rising star in the sport despite, or perhaps because of, his “outside the box” training methods. A sprinter in all four strokes, Andrew hopes to contend in both the 50m freestyle and 200m IM events in Tokyo.
As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what Andrew told us about his unorthodox methods, his passion for surfing and a high-profile rival.
Tell us about your family.
Both of my parents are South African born and raised. They traveled for eight years when they got married and when they had me decided to settle down and raise a family. They loved the States and the opportunity there was, so they began to seek the American dream.
I have a younger sister and we’re best friends. I love getting to spend time with her and go surfing any chance we get. She used to swim with me but her passion is elsewhere!
What has been your parents’ influence on your career?
Without the sacrifices my parents made I would not be where I am today! They spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to get me to meets, to travel and support me, to coach me, to help me be my best! My dad has been my coach my entire career. My mom has acted as my agent most of my career. We are a team and I’m so grateful.
Do you have another job outside of athletics?
It’s more of a passion project now, but I make YouTube videos to give fans an inside look at life as a professional athlete and my life. On top of doing what I can to build my brand as a swimmer.
My sister’s dog is Adi, which we named after one of my first sponsors, Adidas. I also got my own dog last Christmas and his name is Atlas. He’s a Great Dane. Adi is a Jack Russel Terrier.
Top 5 spots in your hometown?
Oh boy this is hard! In Encinitas everything is amazing! My favorites are the beach first! Love surfing at Grandview, Beacons, or going up to Oceanside to surf with my friend [Team USA surfer and Tokyo qualifier] Caroline Marks. After a solid surf session I like going to A Little Moore for two incredible breakfast burritos. Another chill place to hit up would be Roberto’s, both are just down the street from my home.
Where else have you lived?
We lived in Lawrence, Kansas, and it was acting as a bit of a halfway home before possibly immigrating to Australia. With my parents fighting to get their citizenship, we decided to settle at a place with a good pool (broke my first national record in Lawrence). We ended up staying there for eight years because their visas and then green cards were approved! Now we’re in California.
How much time do you train?
Typical training is a morning session from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Three times a week, at least, we will double in the evening from 6-7:30 p.m. Almost every other day we will surf as cross training and have begun adding a weight routine to my training.
Any out-of-the-ordinary aspects to your training?
We train as specific as possible. Our sessions are shorter but intentional every time, using USRPT (ultra-short race-based training). I use blood flow restriction to train and recover. We use power plates to train fast twitch fibers. I eat a ketogenic diet. We do a lot of things outside the box.
What is your earliest memory in swimming?
My earliest memory is watching the 2008 Olympics and watching Michael Phelps dominate! I was eight or nine. A year later I broke my first national record and signed my first autograph. That’s when I knew I want to do this for a very long time and be the best! I loved going fast and still do!
Who’s your most interesting teammate?
Well I train on my own, so I guess that makes the stopwatch my most interesting teammate apart from my own imagination. On team trips though it’s so hard to choose a most interesting teammate... I love how Zach Harting is himself 100% of the time! He’s also a diehard Batman fan and we’ve had some good discussion over the fact that Superman is better (he disagrees).
Who is your biggest rival?
I don’t feel like I have rivals. I love all my competitors until it’s race time. I feel like people have created a rivalry between myself and Caeleb Dressel, but like I said we’re bros racing for the same place. Whoever gets there first has earned it. Often my biggest rival is myself.
Are you a multi-sport athlete?
Growing up I played a little bit of everything. Soccer, basketball, football, even hockey once. Right now, though, the only sports I do outside of swimming are surfing, a little bit of cycling, and the occasional volleyball match with friends. Surfing is what I do most and it helps me decompress form training but also works me physically! The core stability and paddle power that comes from surfing has been awesome. It’s become a form of endurance training for me.