Phoenix: On the first day of his comeback to competitive swimming, Michael Phelps got a first-hand look at the new wave of super competitors he helped inspire.
Standing on the pool deck preparing to warm up for his plunge back into the water, Phelps was approached by Michael Andrew, the teenager who has been dubbed the next big thing in American swimming.
Phelps had already heard all about Andrew because he has been demolishing American national age-group (NAG) records at an alarming rate, but he was taken aback by his first meeting with him.
Just two weeks after he turned 15, Andrew is already 6ft 5in tall, an inch taller than Phelps, and still growing. With hands the size of saucers and feet that look flippers, he has all the physical attributes of an elite swimmer and Phelps was naturally intrigued.
“I’d like to try and watch him race a little but more. I didn’t get the chance to do that this weekend,” he said.
“But the kid’s massive, he’s huge. He’s like the same size as I am but bigger and I guess that having height is a very good thing for a swimmer.”
Phelps, wary of putting too much pressure on the teenager, said Andrew needed time and space to develop and he was looking forward to watching how he progresses when he switched from short-course (25-yard pools) to long-course (50-metre pools).
“Obviously, the kid’s a talented swimmer, he’s broken countless NAG records so I'm excited to see how he can transition into long course,” Phelps said.
While the inevitable comparisons with Phelps are largely a futile exercise because no one in any Olympic sport has come close to matching his record of 18 gold medals, Andrew is already turning heads in the US.
He said: “Coming into this season, we kind of made some predictions that it’d be cool to break 40 national records, But we ended up going 44 or something like that. It’s been a blessing, an amazing season, really.”