Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Anders Nielsen of the University of Michigan

No school has been more dominant in the Big Ten over the last decade than the University of Michigan, and the program’s tendency to develop some of the best middle distance and distance freestyle swimmers in the world has been a huge reason for the school’s success in NCAA competitions. The Wolverines will be looking to win their sixth consecutive Big Ten title this week in West Lafayette, and that is a feat that has not been accomplished since Michigan won 10 conference titles in a row between 1986-1995. Coming off a year that saw the Wolverines set multiple meet records at the Big Ten Championships, Michigan will look to Anders Nielsen to help the Maize and Blue stifle the competition in West Lafayette this week.

A highly-touted recruit out of Farum, Denmark, Nielsen came to the Wolverines as an exceptionally experienced swimmer on the international scene. Just one month before kickstarting his NCAA career, he would compete at the 2012 London Olympics, providing the anchor leg on Denmark’s national record-setting 4×200 free relay (7:15.04, 13th). He would get to be a part of another record-setting performance at the European Championships just three months later as he contributed a leg on Denmark’s 4×50 SCM free relay (1:28.57, 8th) as well. Finally, in December of that same year, Nielsen would compete at the 2012 Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, turning in individual results of 40th in the 100 free (49.16), 17th in the 200 free (1:45.45), and 8th in the 400 free (3:42.80, 3:41.80 in prelims).

Joining Michigan as a freshman, Nielsen immediately demonstrated that he was ready to be one of the top freestylers in the country. At the 2013 Big Ten Championships, he would record finishes of 1st in the 200 free (1:33.20), 3rd in the 500 free (4:14.15), and 4th in the 1650 free (14:53.33). Notably, his 200 free swim established a new meet record in the process, clipping Dan Madwedprevious record of 1:33.90 from 2009. As a member of Michigan’s relays, he would also provide the lead-off leg (1:33.74) on Michigan’s 800 free relay that would take 1st overall in a new Big Ten record of 6:13.70. The effort absolutely shattered the previous standard of 6:15.80 from the 2010 edition of the Championships.

Swimming at his first NCAA championships, Nielsen would post finishes of 21st in the 200 free (1:34.95), 9th in the 500 free (4:16.82, 4:16.25 in prelims), and 9th in the 1650 (14:51.40). Both his 500 free and 1650 earned him Honorable Mention All-American Honors for the first time in his career. Furthermore, he would earn All-American Honors for the first time as a member of Michigan’s 800 free relay (2nd, 6:15.54).

Returning for his sophomore season with the Wolverines, Anders would continue to be a scoring machine at the Big Ten Championships. He would record finishes of 4th in the 200 free (1:34.43), 3rd in the 500 free (4:14.66), and 3rd in the 1650 free (14:48.23). His 1650 free was a career best, and also ranked in the top 3 on Michigan’s top times for the season.

Additionally, Nielsen got to be a part of two record-setting relays in front of a home crowd, helping the 400 free relay and 800 free relay win in times of 2:51.07 and 6:09.85 respectively. The 400 free relay broke the previous meet record of 2:51.24 from 2005 while the 800 free relay (Nielsen, Michael WynaldaJustin Glanda, and Connor Jaeger) set a new school, meet, Big Ten, NCAA, and US Open record in the process. The previous NCAA and US Open record had stood at a 6:10.16 from 2009 when the University of Texas quartet of Dave WaltersRicky BerensMichael Klueh, and Scott Jostes combined to set the standard.

The following month, Anders would get another opportunity to compete at the NCAA Championships, posting individual results of 18th in the 200 free (1:34.60), 8th in the 500 free (4:16.88, 4:13.89 in prelims), and 13th in the 1650 free (14:51.18, Honorable Mention All-America Honors). His 500 free swim in prelims would earn him All-American honors for the first time in an individual event in his career. On relay duty, he would earn All-American Honors as a part of Michigan’s 800 free relay (6:16.37, 4th) and Honorable Mention All-American honors as a part of the 400 free relay (2:52.82, 2:52.21 in prelims).

During the summer in-between his sophomore and junior years, Nielsen would compete at the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Doha, Qatar, turning in finishes of 24th in the 200 free (1:44.79) and 15th in the 400 free (3:41.95). He also swam a leg on Denmark’s 400 free relay, helping the team set a new national record (6:58.65) en route to taking 7th in prelims (8th in finals with a 7:00.78).

Returning to the collegiate scene for this third year with Michigan, Nielsen stayed red hot at the Conference Championships, taking 2nd in the 200 free (1:33.49), 2nd in the 500 free (4:14.06), and 4th in the 1650 (14:57.38). In relay action, Anders would provide legs on Michigan’s 400 free relay (2:50.14, 1st) and 800 free relay (6:12.20, 1st). Notably, the 400 free relay established a new school, meet, and Big Ten record in the process, cutting just two-hundredths off the previous record from 2009.

Although Nielsen generally swam his best at Big Tens during his first two seasons at UofM, that trend would change at last year’s NCAA Championships. Nielsen took runner-up honors in the 200 free (1:32.73), 4th in the 500 free (4:12.16), and 18th in the 1650 (14:56.53) at the National Championships, securing a pair of All-America Honors in the process. Additionally, his 200 free would move him up to 2nd all-time and his 500 free would move him up to 4th all-time in school history. On relay duty, Nielsen would help the Wolverines take 7th in the 400 free relay (2:49.73, 2:49.39 in prelims) and 4th in the 800 free relay (6:16.05). The 400 free relay swim would break the school and Big Ten record set just one month earlier in Iowa.

It is an exhausting process to detail all of Anders Nielsen‘s accomplishments during his swimming career, but that only serves as a testament to the legacy that he will leave behind after NCAAs next month. After being handed the torch by the likes of Connor Jaeger, Michael Wynalda, and Kyle Whitaker, it is up to Nielsen to lead by example beginning with the relays tomorrow night. With the 800 free relay being an event that the Wolverines have had an absolute stranglehold on the top spot for several years now, it should be expected that Nielsen will get Michigan out to a strong start on Wednesday evening, and that may be all that the motivation that the men from Ann Arbor need to lock up yet another Conference Championship.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
100 Free: 44.28/50.04
200 Free: 1:32.73/1:48.27
500 Free/400 Free: 4:12.16/3:50.62
1000 Free/800 Free: 9:07.20/8:12.86
1650 Free/1500 Free: 14:47.88/15:40.47
400 IM (LCM) : 4:37.79
400 Free Relay: 2:49.39$#
800 Free Relay: 6:09.85$#*^

$Denotes school record
#Denotes Big Ten Record
*Denotes NCAA record
^
Denotes US Open record

School Major/Degree: Psychology
Favorite Event: 400 FR-R
Favorite Hobby: Cooking
Favorite Movie: Whiplash
Person You’d Like to Meet Growing Up: Andreas Mogensen, the first Dane to fly in space!
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Oatmeal and banana

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

I started pretty young. Since Denmark is surrounded by water, it is pretty normal for kids to learn to swim at a young age. I enjoyed it and chose to stick with it.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why? 

It is hard to choose one single memory, as every year our team is different and I value all the experiences and memories I have with each years teams. However, being a part of the National Championship team my freshmen year was incredible and something I am very thankful for.

As some of our readers may already know, you had the privilege of competing at the 2012 Olympics as a part of Denmark’s 4×200 Free Relay. Can you describe what the experience was like, and also tell us about what your biggest takeaway from that meet was?

Swimming in the Olympic Games was like an out of body experience. It feels like it was over before it even started, I barely got to enjoy it. I learned to savor each moment, as you can’t go back and re-experience it.

Upon beginning your NCAA career, did you find the transition from long course meters to short course yards especially challenging? Do you have a preference between the two now that you have gained significant experience in the collegiate realm?

The environments surrounding the two courses are very different. The short course season is team-focused and all about what you can accomplish as a team. The long course season is focused more on individual accomplishments. Therefore, I by far, prefer the short course season.

Last year, when we ran this same Senior Spotlight series, I had the opportunity of asking your ex-teammate Justin Glanda about what it was like to set a new NCAA Record and US Open Record in the 800 Free Relay at the 2014 Big Ten Championships. Do you have any words to describe what it was like to be a part of such a historic relay?

It was such a humbling experience. Being part of something that is bigger than you was incredible. It was the result of a long season of hard work and commitment. Looking over at the team and seeing their excitement and joy after the relay was incredible.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

I’m going back to Denmark right after the completion of NCAA to fight for a spot on our Olympic team. If I make it, I will swim through Rio and then take a decision if I want to continue swimming after that. There’s still much I want to accomplish, both in and out of the pool.

What should we look forward to from Michigan as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

I think people are underestimating us. We have such a talented and dedicated team. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this year.

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About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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