Andrew Hurd’s personal alliance may lie with the Maize and Blue, but officially, his citizenship belongs to the northern nation of Canada. This past summer, he had to swim against his American teammates in the toughest competition in the world — the Olympics.
Hurd, a member of the Michigan men’s swim team, began swimming when he was four in Oakville, Ontario. Like many budding athletes, he participated in several different sports as a young child. At the age of ten, his parents pushed him to choose one sport and stick with it. To his father’s dismay, swimming was Hurd’s choice.
“My dad had been a swimmer for a long while when he was younger,” Hurd said. “He knew how much time was involved and the early morning practices that I’d have to do. But it was my decision, and swimming was my best sport.”
By the time he was 15, Hurd was getting more and more involved with swimming and had aspirations to continue competing beyond high school. He was highly recruited by Michigan and took the opportunity to swim with one of the best programs in the United States and under one of the best coaches, Jon Urbanchek.
“Michigan was superior to any other school that was recruiting me,” Hurd said. “I liked the coach, and (Michigan) had everything I wanted in terms of academics and athletics.”
Hurd’s career at Michigan has been filled with great successes and achievements. He has been named an NCAA All-American five times, holds an NCAA record in the 800-yard freestyle relay and is a two-time Big Ten Champion in that event. While his career has hit several high marks, Hurd believes his finest moment as a Wolverine was last year when he claimed the NCAA title and record in the 800-yard freestyle relay with his team of Peter Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater and Dan Ketchum.
“Not only did we win that race for the team but for the school also,” Hurd said. “It was just an incredible moment that I’ll never forget.”
And just when he had hit that pinnacle last March, Hurd raised the bar — to the Olympic level. But this time he wasn’t swimming for a team that he was very familiar with. As a Canadian citizen, Hurd had the opportunity to swim under the red and white flag while competing in Athens.
“It’s different swimming without your normal teammates,” Hurd said. “I’m used to swimming with them, not against them. It’s also hard to race them when you know how capable they are.”
Hurd enjoyed swimming with his Canadian teammates but commented that they weren’t as competitive or serious about swimming as his American teammates. Where swimmers in the United States typically train for years prior to the Olympic trials, most Canadians only prepare for the meet a month in advance.
“The Canadian program needs more development,” Hurd said. “The depth isn’t very strong. There’s a lot of support at the younger age, but, as kids grow up, there aren’t many programs for them to join.”
While in Athens, Hurd finished 14th in the 400-meter freestyle in 3:50.81, less than one second off of the Canadian record of 3:49.67, which he set after setting it during the Olympic trials.
“It was definitely the best international meet I’ve ever been to,” Hurd said. “The Olympic meet is a very high-pressure meet. I felt like I performed at an average level. Under that much pressure, average is the best you can hope for.”
After the competition was over, Hurd endured an injury that forced him to sit out most of last semester’s competition. While still residing in Athens after his race, Hurd fell down with a glass in his hand, sliced an artery, tore a ligament and damaged a nerve in his hand. After undergoing both surgery and therapy, Hurd is just now getting back into his training regimen.
“It’s been a tough transition, getting back into training,” Hurd said. “It was a painful injury, and it has affected me more than I thought it would.”
Michigan coach Bob Bowman has been impressed with the way Hurd has handled his injury.
“I think it’s going to be tough to come back from such a serious injury,” Bowman said. “But his training process has gone pretty well, so it will be interesting to see how he does. He has a very strong work ethic, and he’s able to train through a tremendous amount of pain.”
Hurd hasn’t decided if he is going to try to make the 2008 Olympics and says he probably won’t make the decision until his summer training begins.
“I’m looking forward to taking a break from swimming after this season,” Hurd said. “I’ve been doing it for so many years, and I think it will be nice to just rest for a bit.”
This weekend Hurd and the Wolverines will be competing in their only home stand of the season. They take on Northwestern on Friday at 5 p.m. and Indiana on Saturday at 1 p.m.