Andrew Wilson swims during his senior year at Emory University. Wilson will represent Team U.S.A. at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. (Emory Wheel)

Andrew Wilson (17C), former Emory University swimmer, is headed to Tokyo, Japan, for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Wilson will represent Team USA in the 100 Breaststroke after earning a spot with his time in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 14. 

At the trials, Wilson finished second with a personal best time of 58.74s, just 0.01s behind swimmer Michael Andrew who will represent the United States alongside Wilson. In a photo-finish, Wilson secured the final spot by narrowly edging out training partner Nic Fink of the University of Georgia by 0.06s. Wilson’s time makes him the 15th fastest swimmer in the history of the event and the fourth-fastest American ever.

Emory swimming and diving head coach Jon Howell has been by Wilson’s side since the day he stepped on campus in 2012. Howell has worked alongside University of Georgia swimming and diving head coach Jack Bauerle in training Wilson for the trials the last few months.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Howell told the Wheel. “I feel like he’s been moving in this direction, and he was set up really well to do this. He made the world team last summer and performed really well there, and I felt like that was a great introduction to international competition for him. I knew he’d be in the hunt, but there’s no meet in the world that’s more competitive than the U.S. Olympic Trials, and anything can definitely happen.”

The former Eagle is the first Emory athlete to participate in the Olympics and the first male Division III swimmer to ever qualify. During his time at Emory, Wilson was named the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimmer of the Year twice, and he set three Division III records in addition to being a national champion in five events at the 2017 NCAA Division III Championships. Wilson was also a part of four University Athletic Association (UAA) swimming and diving championships and he won two UAA swimmer of the year awards as well, playing a crucial role on Howell’s teams.

“He came in as an extremely slow incoming recruit for us, didn’t make a travel squad at all in the first semester of his freshman year and really climbed up through the ladder,” Howell said. “By senior year, he was the NCAA Swimmer of the Year and also won his first U.S. national title. I think one of his two greatest qualities, from my perspective, is that he really learned from failure.”

One failure that comes to Howell’s mind was when Wilson first attempted to make Team USA in 2016. Wilson took the year off from his academic studies to train for the trials, and finished just outside of the top two in the 200 Breaststroke in a very close race, causing him to just miss qualification. 

The original plan for the 2020 Summer Olympics was put on hold for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilson spent hours-on-hours training for the trials in June 2020 but was forced to wait another year until the pandemic was under control. 

In an interview with the Wheel in March 2020, Wilson prepared to use the extra time as a way to relax and prepare in a less stressful manner, which may have contributed to his success just a year later.

“Now that we’ve got another 15 months until the games, I was like, ‘Alright, it’s time for a little mental and physical break just to reset before we gear up again,’” Wilson said.

Wilson won’t have to wait as long this time around. Competition begins on July 24, the day after the opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place. Wilson is looking to add another event to his schedule at the Olympics. Trials for the 200 Breaststroke, which Wilson also earned a spot in, begin on June 16.

Howell sees Wilson’s accomplishment as a great example of persistence, a value he’s aimed at instilling on his team.

“It shows that if you’re determined and you persevere and you’ve learned from failures, as well as successes, and you stick with things, you really can achieve what you want to achieve in this world,” Howell said. “I think Andrew provides real inspiration for our swimmers and hopefully for others around the country.”