Michael Andrew wants to make one thing clear: He is not trying to be another Michael Phelps.
The just-turned-13-year-old is eager to leave his own wake at the pool.
“I love breaking new barriers in swimming,” Andrew said.
Keep an eye on this kid. While too young to have a realistic shot at making it to the London Olympics, he could be on the verge of stardom when the Rio Games come around in four years’ time.
Already 1.87m tall, with size 15 feet and massive hands, Andrew has set numerous US age-group records and was eager to test his limits against a top-level swimmer yesterday, boldly taking on world championship medalist Tyler McGill in a couple of just-for-fun match races at Fishers, Indiana.
Naturally, Andrew already is getting comparisons to Phelps,.. who made his first Olympic team at age 15 and has gone on to win more gold medals (14) than any other athlete.
“When I hear that, I have to correct it,” the youngster said. “I would be more than happy to be as great as Michael Phelps, but I’d like to be the first Michael Andrew.”
McGill, who won a bronze medal in the 100m butterfly at last year’s world championships, is not too concerned about losing to a kid who celebrated his 13th birthday this week. That is not the point of racing the 50m butterfly and 25m freestyle during a stop of the Fitter & Faster Tour.
“Every kid, including myself, had a moment when they were young that they had an opportunity to learn from or speak to or engage with a world champion or Olympic-level athlete,” McGill said on Friday. “This is more about the experience he’ll have to hold on to further down the road.”
Andrew is not conceding anything. He never goes into an event expecting to lose, even when racing a swimmer who figures to be a medal contender at the London Olympics this summer.
“Michael thought he might have a really good chance of taking him in the 25 free,” his mother, Tina Andrew, said with a chuckle.
In just the past five months, Michael has set 11 short-course and five long-course records, many of them in different events on the same day. His exploits have been posted on YouTube, which drew the attention of McGill and Olympian Mark Gangloff. They congratulated Andrew on his accomplishments — and noted that McGill would at the clinic in Fishers where the youngster set a pair of records in December.
That led to a good-natured offer for a match race, which Andrew readily accepted.
Andrew definitely has genetics on his side. His father and coach, Peter, was a navy diver in his native South Africa. Tina competed for several years as Laser on the British version of Gladiators, a show that was popular during the early 1990s. The couple eventually settled in the US, where their two children were born. They now live in Kansas.
Michael is focused on the 2016 Rio Games. He does not have a poster of Phelps on the wall — as Phelps did with Mark Spitz — but the teenager definitely has big dreams.
“I think about it all the time,” he said. “I visualize what it’s going to be like — all the excitement, all the excitement of winning the gold.”
Yep, keep an eye on this kid.