Swimming: Shades of Phelps in Michael

Swimming: Shades of Phelps in Michael
PHOTO: AFP

He's just 16, and already making a boast of Phelps-like proportions.

American swimmer Michael Andrew says he is targeting gold in all his eight events at this week's Fina World Junior Championships, which starts today at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub.

And along with it, several world junior records.

Born to South African immigrants

Peter and Tina in the US, the 1.95m- tall teenager and his sister Michaela are home-schooled in Lawrence, Kansas, where their father trains him in a specially built indoor two-lane pool on their land.

Said Michael (right) yesterday: "I am honoured to be compared with Michael Phelps, he is the greatest swimmer of all time.

"For anyone to come up to you and say, 'You remind me of Phelps', it is awesome.

"But I don't want to be another Michael Phelps, I want to be the first Michael Andrew."

While most coaches emphasise clocking the mileage in training before tapering for meets, Peter - a former swimmer and navy diver in South Africa - eschews that and drills his son exclusively using the ultra-short race pace training method, where swimmers work in short bursts at race pace.

Peter's method has been derided by coaches like Bob Bowman, who famously guides Phelps.

But the latest swim prodigy to come out of the US has set more national age-group records than Phelps at a similar age, with the number now somewhere around 80.

It includes Phelps' 13-14 age-group record in the 200m individual medley.

Michael is also the youngest American swimmer in history to turn professional, signing an endorsement deal two years ago, and another with sportswear giants adidas in June this year.

His achievements have invariably led to comparisons with Phelps, although the teenager obviously needs to prove that he is more than just a star at age group level.

After all, Bowman once tweeted that his protege Phelps had set two world records, won a world championship and been in an Olympic final before turning pro at 16.

Michael admitted that the comparisons to Phelps irked him until a few years ago, when a deeper devotion to his religion calmed him down.

He said: "God knows exactly what is going to happen in the races to come, so for me to stress over that and to fear failure or not living up to people's expectations or comparisons, is just silly."

FAVOURITE

Based on qualifying times, Michael is the favourite in the 50m butterfly, 50m backstroke and 200m individual medley, and second fastest in the 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke and 50m freestyle.

He is also competing in the 50m breaststroke and the 100m butterfly.

"In the 100m breast, I am just 0.03 seconds off Anton's (Chupkov of Russia) world record of 1min 00.65sec, so that's definitely a goal for me," he said.

While he is the fastest qualifier in the 200m IM, his time of 2:00.13 is off the world best junior time of 1:59.44.

He said: "There are events where I know I have greater chances to win medals, based on my training.

"Hopefully, all of them will be gold, or if not, most of them.

"That's my goal."


This article was first published on August 25, 2015.
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