As he considered the heat sheet earlier in the day, Peter Andrew at once was realistic and optimistic about the prospects of his son, Michael, to earn an Olympic berth in the 100-meter breaststroke on Monday at the CenturyLink Center.
It would be, he said, something of a “fairy tale” or a “miracle” for the 17-year-old from Lawrence to become an Olympian after the first event of his first U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
After all, there are only two spots open, and favorite Kevin Cordes had set an American record of 58.94 seconds the day before and second seed Cody Miller had come in at 59.09 — .76 seconds ahead of Andrew’s semifinal time.
But coming from the born-again Christian with a gleam in his eye, the idea of a potential miracle meant … it could happen.
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Ultimately, Michael Andrew’s performance proved not quite that — but enough to serve notice that he is truly on the cusp of something special.
With a time of 59.82, Andrew finished fourth overall — .64 behind Cordes, .56 behind Miller and .01 behind third-place finisher Josh Prenot.
In front of a crowd that included a cheering section wielding oversized cardboard cutouts of Andrew’s face, the race represented the third time in three days that he broke the junior world record in the event.
Or, to be more precise, the only 17-year-old ever to swim the event in under a minute did it three times in about 32 hours.
So he cried for perhaps a second or two on his way out of the pool and off the deck.
But by the time he walked the 100 yards or so to the mixed zone media interview area, he projected elation as he greeted reporters with a smiling “good to see you.”
“I gave everything I had, and I’m excited,” he said, later adding, “Now’s just not my time.”
While Andrew is scheduled to swim four more events this week, this figured to be his best chance in this Olympiad because of a combination of his own acumen in the 100 breaststroke and a gap in experienced swimmers in the event: Cordes was the only returnee among the top five from the 2012 trials.
But it’s been widely believed even in a swimming world skeptical of his counter-culture training at home with his father that his peak will be in the next four years.
Such a breakthrough now would have been ahead of even an ambitious schedule for Andrew, who at 14 became the youngest U.S. swimmer ever to turn professional.
“He’s a baby,” Peter Andrew said. “Four years’ time, he’s going to come back and be way more of a force. The tables will turn.”
Not that this hasn’t been special in itself, especially after a year in which his times seemed to have stagnated before an emphasis on more rest and mental work.
“I don’t even (care) what he does the rest of the meet,” Andrew’s father said, smiling. “This has all been awesome.”