Today we connect to one of the world’s top up-and-coming young athletes, SWIMMER Michael Andrew. He is considered an athletic prodigy, one of swimming’s brightest stars, deeply admired by swimmers, coaches, parents and others all around the world. He is a naturally gifted 16 year old USA SWIMMER, with a proudly South African ancestry. His name is written up in the USA history books as the blistering National Age Group record slayer, with 75 age group records sitting against his name.
We salute and celebrate him for his long list of wonderful achievements and fine accomplishments as a swimmer. But this interview was gracefully afforded to me by the Andrew Family and it really gave me the opportunity to look a little deeper and see the person and the gentle and genuine heart behind the headlines and the triumphs.
Michael took his time to answer the questions in depth, with real insight, wisdom, fun and joy! He is a humble Jesus Champion. You will always find “G2G” on his social media platforms – Glory to God! He loves connecting with people, loves his family, loves and is passionate about his homeland USA and also has a deep love for the land of his ancestors – South Africa. He finds his inner strength and confidence in his faith in Jesus Christ. Even connecting with him across the distance via e-mail I sense such a grounded, balanced, fun loving, adventurous, caring, diverse, open minded, inquisitive and gentle giant in Michael Andrew.
I have said this before: I stand in awe, moved and inspired each and every time I connect with the world’s Young Athletes, all of them! How blessed are we to see in our youth such a determined generation of World Changers and History makers rising up. This is why their stories MUST be told and their legacy in the making must be celebrated!
Hey Michael, I see you have even picked up a little bit of SA lingo through your last visit here like “cuzzies”, “load shedding” and “Stellies”!
Get to know him personally, about his recent SA experiences, and all his different interest and passions in the interview below:
So Michael, you just turned 16 in April, how does that make you feel?
It’s really exciting to finally be 16! It’s fun to be able to drive.
You are passionate about your swimming, tell me a little bit about your swimming journey up to now?
I started swimming competitively at about 8 years old, and was naturally gifted with a talent to move fast in the water and absolutely loved being surrounded by water. Not after long, I was breaking State records and swimming really well. By the time I was 7 we were at an All Star Championship meet in Lawrence, Kansas (which we currently call home) and I broke my first National Age Group (NAG) record. The event was the 50m freestyle. That was also my first time being asked for my autograph… my parents ever since joked that I could swim the race faster than I could sign my name (since then I’ve practiced and have a signature down). As a 10 year old I broke 12 NAG’s. When competing in the age group of 11-12 years old I broke 20 (technically 21, but the last meet wasn’t sanctioned properly so it didn’t count). My 13-14 year age group was the most incredible season of smashing records left and right, I managed with God’s speed in me to break 40. At 15 I broke the 15-16 national record in the 100 breast with a 1:01.67. Swimming up to now has been such an incredible journey, of course there has been ups and downs but my relationship with God through it all has grown, and made it easier to find healthy ways to cope with disappointments and successes.
What has been some of your highlights in swimming so far?
Wow, that’s a tough one… I’ve been so blessed through swimming. With my family, I’ve had the opportunity to compete in Asia for the World Cup, been on 100’s of awesome road trips to meets, made friends for life, been able to compete with the best in the world, and the list is endless… If I was to choose a race that has been the most exciting and memorable it would be my 100m Breast from the Austin Arena Pro Series Meet because it was the first event that ranked me worldwide in a good place!!! Another highlight would definitely be the relationships I am able to make with people around the world and in the USA! And if I was to choose a favourite pool that I’ve raced in there is no way I would be able to tell you a favourite, ha-ha! A top three would be the Pan Am Centre in Toronto, Tokyo Tatsumi International Swim Center, and in the USA the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center in Austin.
You have just spent a few months in South Africa swimming and connecting with your South African family and friends, what are your fondest memories of this time?
The most precious times for me was when I was with family, the last time I was in SA I was about 2 years old and never really got to know my cousins… there is really no way to describe how amazingly awesome it was to immediately click with all my cuzzies. Fondest memories were staying at Aunty Rose’s home and being spoiled by her special breakfasts overlooking the beach every morning; playing together and having all our family come together to come and cheer for me at swim meets; playing soccer with my cousins Timmy, Nathan, and my Uncle Rob (dad’s brother); playing table tennis with them (super competitive) and seeing my cousin Sarah. Another fond memory was when I got to hang out at the Waterfront in the Cape with Aunty Belinda (mom’s sister) and my cuzzies Gunter and Dieter; also when we got to hang out with them at the beach in Durbs; another was when I went surfing with my cousin Kirsten at Kommetjie Beach (I didn’t have a wetsuit either… not a good idea), and when we went to Aunty Jackie’s place to have dinner after our swim meet in Stellies. What made this so special was that us as kids got to bond like crazy and we did just that. I loved every moment that I was with my cousins and I am always thinking and praying for them and can’t wait to see them. While we were there we were staying with my Grandparents in their home and we loved how much closer it brought us all together, especially when there was load shedding! I loved the beautiful places we were able to visit, Kruger was a huge highlight for me as I love animals and being so close to God’s incredible creations in the wild sometimes were breath-taking.
So, for your heart – which is home SA or USA? Or is that an unfair question?
USA. Fair question. For me, in my heart it was and always will be USA. In my head though SA seemed like a wize option to consider if I want a better chance to make it to the Olympics in 2016. As a family, like everything we do, we committed this to prayer and felt that we could not make an informed decision on this without spending quality time in South Africa. Mom and Dad sacrificed a lot and arranged this extended trip to provide my sister and I with an opportunity to get to know South Africa, connect to our roots and get to know our family, so that as a family, we could seek God’s will for us for this exact moment and time in our lives. We only want to be in God’s perfect will. My parents always hoped that things would have improved in South Africa eventually and never really dug their roots in the US but this trip changed that. The US is home for us now but we are resolved to travel to South Africa every year as our family is very important to us and we have lost precious time with them during all the years we could not travel due to Mom and Dad’s struggles to get their green cards. I love Kansas, I love our home in Kansas, and I love the fact that I’m so blessed to have a pool in my back yard to be able to do what I love.
Tell me one thing about Michael Andrew that the world does not know?
I love reptiles and other exotic animals! If I could have as many pets as I wanted, I would have some cool ball pythons, boa constrictors, chameleons, iguanas, bearded dragons, Monitors, etc haha. But I hate spiders, and creepy crawlies…
You are an aspiring film maker too – Wow! Tell me a little bit about this, and what else you do to relax?
YESSSS!!! I love being able to get creative with editing videos and photos! My idea behind it all is that with the incredible life I’m privileged to live, how cool would it be to be able to go back and watch memories. So whenever I go somewhere I usually have a GoPro with me and another tool of mine is a drone, also known as a DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus… and I’ve had some awesome fun flying this drone over the Great Wall of China, in Tokyo over the Tatsumi Center, in Singapore at night, and in South Africa over some stunning settings. But all in all the video editing and photography passion has definitely turned into a dream of mine that I could one day study the art of doing it correctly and professionally! Other things I enjoy doing for fun are target shooting with my compound bow, or pellet rifle just for fun… I also love playing airsoft, I often get to play with my Youth Pastor and a bunch of other cool guys from our Youth Group, and we’re even going to make a full time airsoft field in our back yard’s woods! I also jump on the trampoline a lot, play tennis with my sister, wakeboard and wake skate, listen to a lot of music, I do play some video games with my sis like Mario kart on the Wii or FiFa with my dad on the Xbox! My dad and I often have ding dong table tennis battles.
Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?
Swimmers that inspire me are Missy Franklin, Penny Heyns, Karin Prinsloo, and Tim Tebow. What’s so inspiring is that through the ups and downs in life they too through God’s Strength are able to overcome. The witness they are to people for their stand in faith is awe inspiring.
I believe you had lunch with one of SA’s greatest swimming hero’s and history maker Penny Heyns, how did you experience that?
What an honor! This is one of the things I love the most about my life, its the amazing opportunities I get to meet people like Ms Penny. During SA Nationals we had lunch with a coach who wanted to know more about USRPT and she was friends with Ms. Penny and asked if she could join us. What struck me the most about meeting her was that she lived her faith. One of our conversations that I will never forget was the importance of always treating everyone you meet as if they are all equally special. Among many other things we talked about, she also talked about her visualization. Dad always encourages me to visualize more and our conversation on this was inspirational.
One of the things that I admire about you is your openness about your faith in Jesus Christ. Can you tell me a little bit more about your faith journey?
Ever since I was little I was brought up in a home where God came first. When I first became a professional swimmer I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and be the best and I was crippling myself with fear… I was then invited to a life changing Bible retreat where I learnt the truth and the fact that my identity does not lay in the results of my swimming career and that I am ultimately defined by who I am in the eyes of the Lord, and not by what others think or say…, I’ve had some tough times in the sport too, and really it’s just recently that my walk with the Lord has really caught fire and is bursting with joy and excitement!!!! I also used to be extremely fearful of embarrassing myself in front of friends or even worst a girl and obviously it’s not easy to be fearless when it comes to that stuff, but with the Lord I know that He will put the correct words in my mouth and will pretty much walk me through it!
What is your personal favourite motivational quote?
“God’s love takes you on journeys you never wish to go, makes you travel by roads you never wish to use, and take you to places you never wish to leave!”
What is your favorite Bible verse?
OOOOh that’s a tough one, I’ll list three haha… Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”, 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”, and for my last one… one that I will have a fun time trying to memorize is Psalm 101: 1-8.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
To be distracted by things of the world that makes me blind or deaf to God’s voice. It is easy to think you are special when people treat you different – I remind myself daily that everything I have is purely by the grace of God. I’ve been so challenged lately to watch things that I look at, listen to or spend unhealthy amount of time on and to make time with God a priority every day. I realize that I cannot share God if I don’t know Him and the only way to truly know Him is to study His word. I recently set a daily reminder (like an appointment in my calendar) to when it goes off to speak out something I’m thankful for. I try to when I spend time on social media to listen to daily Bible reading on cool Bible apps. When I go to bed at night, I leave my phone in the kitchen.
When you’ve had a tough / bad day, what lifts you up again?
A big part of what lifts me up is when I’m able to sit back relax and listen to music, the music I listen to is all Christian so it goes from worship, to Christian pop, and I love Christian Rap. For me I just love being able to, through music take the time to worship God and at the same time think and pray and give my difficulties to the Lord as he helps me get through them.
I’m sure you have many things going on right now, what’s to be expected next from Michael Andrew?
The next event that we are training for is US Nationals in August, I have a few small meets leading up to it, but that is the primary focus and to be the best trained I have ever been, mentally, physically, and spiritually! And from there all my focus is put towards trials and giving my best shot to make the 2016 US Olympic Team! God willing!!!
Anything else you would like to share?
Yes, the one thing I would like to add is that many people believe I am worked like a horse, and have no life outside of swimming. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, I have such an amazing life, I’m able to travel the world doing what I love with who I love, what could be better than that: Nothing…. I’m also so lucky to have friends that share the same faith and love for the Lord that I do… I’m even a model and just recently was hired for a job, how cool is that!!! Life’s awesome and if I live in a bubble, it’s a bubble I wish a lot of people could enjoy with me!
A highlight for Michael of the SA Trip was watching disabled swimmers compete at GP’s and Nationals. It touched something deep within the entire Andrew family in ways you cannot describe. What struck them was the joy and constant smile from Achmat, Michael is very fond of Achmat and they are now GoPro buddies.
Thank you so much Michael for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for the future and for your plans ahead. We look forward to following your exciting journey. Blessings!
Michael is Proudly Sponsored by his friends at:
Mutual of Omaha
Team Michael’s web sites:
NB – All images were supplied by the athlete to Heslop Sports. If there are any images that are not credited correctly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we will gladly do so immediately.