Michael Andrew of Team USA did the improbable: he set a precise goal time in the 50m freestyle, 21.75, and hit it on the nose. Not once, but twice. Swimming at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Indianapolis on Friday, Andrew blasted a 21.75 in heats to match his goal to the millisecond. He also destroyed both the Championship Record and the World Junior Record with the swim, becoming the first FINA-defined 18-and-under to break the 22-second barrier since FINA has been keeping track of World Junior Records. Yu Hexin had held the 50 free record with 22.00 since 2014. Later that day, Andrew went 21.79 in his semifinal. In the final on Saturday, Andrew stopped the clock at 21.75 for a second time, tying his day-old CR and WJR and taking home the gold medal.
“After going 22.03 [at Nationals], the goal was to get under 21.97, because that would make the National Team. I ended up putting a crazy time out there, saying, ‘I believe I can go 21.75.’ I wrote it down on paper and put it on top of my bed, in my bathroom, in my office; I put it everywhere around the house just so I could always see it, to the point where it became part of the house. It wasn’t something that stood out because it was something I believed so much in. It’s crazy how it worked out. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve set a goal time and achieved it to a tee. So that was pretty cool.”
Andrew also broke World Junior Records in the 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly on Saturday. His path to the backstroke WJR was eerily similar to that of the freestyle. After taking a chunk out of Kliment Kolesnikov’s 24.94 world mark in heats on Friday with 24.63, he went 24.67 in semis later that night, and then 24.63 on Saturday in another gold-medal performance.
“My goal [in the back] was just to get under 24.94. Coming into the meet I knew that there would be a lot of people wanting to see what I could do in my last big junior meet. I felt like I put a bit of pressure on myself in the first two days and I really wanted to perform amazingly. I knew I had the 50s coming up and we trained with a focus on that. My goals were to break Junior World Records, swim fast, and win golds.”
In the 50 fly, Andrew knocked down the CR in heats on Saturday morning with 23.48, then came back to take .01 off Evgeny Sedov’s 23.28 WJR in semis that evening with 23.27.
“I journaled my goal times for all of my events, but the only one I put on paper to be seen everywhere was the 50 free. I think it was because I felt it was the most powerful [event]. If I could really achieve that time, then the rewards would be much larger: making the National Team, being in a really good spot, further solidifying my professional status.”
And what has been the best part of the last 24 hours, with three World Junior Records in his pocket?
“The Team USA staff and all the athletes. I am so grateful to them, and to the fans. Every time I got on the blocks they cheered louder and louder. It felt like everyone was racing with me. It was a pretty special moment.”