Swimmer Michael Andrew faces criticism of training methods following 200m collapse
Team USA swimmer Michael Andrew has been the focus of a lot of curiosity due to his unusual training methods. After his collapse in Friday’s 200-meter individual medley, those methods are likely to be scrutinized more heavily.
Andrew jumped into the lead in the 200m IM, maintaining it until the final 50 meters. However, he collapsed during the freestyle portion of the swim and ended up missing out on the podium entirely, continuing a trend that he’s exhibited in past performances.
Andrew and his father Peter, who is also his coach, are devotees of a methodology called “Ultra Short Race Pace Training” that is not used by any other American swimmers. The method involves dozens of short 25-meter reps at race pace, in contrast to the preferred method of training by swimming longer distances slightly below race pace. Andrew’s training method means he is less accustomed to the 50-meter pools that are standard at international competition like the Olympics.
The method has previously been criticized by Michael Phelps, who saw Andrew fade in a previous race and argued that he needed to change his training in order to properly prepare his body for a full 50-meter swim.
“When you’re slipping water like that, I feel like that’s a training error,” Phelps said in June, via David Rieder of Swimming World. “You’re not giving yourself that chance to have repetitions in training that you’re going to feel the last 25 meters.”
Andrew had told Laine Higgins of the Wall Street Journal that his goal was not just to win the 200m IM, but to break the world record of 1:54.00 set in 2011 by Ryan Lochte. While acknowledging that the freestyle portion of the race is his weakness, he said his goal was to split 24 seconds on the butterfly, get near 29 seconds on the backstroke, do the breaststroke in 32.5 seconds, and then finish the final split with a 28.5 second freestyle.
Instead, Andrew fell woefully short, particularly on the freestyle portion.
Michael Andrew's 200 IM Splits:
Fly – 24.21
Back – 30.30
Breast – 32.11
Free – 30.69
— Kyle Sockwell (@kylesockwell) July 30, 2021
China’s Shun Wang won the event with a time of 1:55.00. Andrew finished fifth with a time of 1:57.31, over a second slower than bronze medalist Jeremy Desplanches and over three seconds short of the world record time he’d targeted.
Many viewers and former swimmers blamed Andrew’s unorthodox training method for his collapse.
Watching USA Swimming “star” Michael Andrew get smoked on the last 50 of the 200 IM was a thing of beauty.
You can NOT win an Olympic gold medal in a 200 or above with his training nonsense. You have to be able to finish races.
— Price Atkinson (@PriceAtkinson) July 30, 2021
Michael Andrew has to change his training. You can’t be the best in the world for 150 meters and fall apart that badly in the freestyle.
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) July 30, 2021
A sign Michael Andrew needs to reevaluate his training when Alex Walsh and Kate Douglas, the 2nd and 3rd place female finishers from USA, bring it home at the same split, and Bobby Finke can bring home his 800free in 26.6 and MA does a 30.6 https://t.co/wBWGCm5LuT
— Nicola Anderson (@NicolaRAnderson) July 30, 2021
Both Andrew and his father were very confident in his methods and the results they felt they would yield. It didn’t happen, and while it’s unlikely Andrew would overhaul the training he’s used his entire life, they’re going to hear a lot of criticism over how this happened.