Last week, the US’ University of Tennessee held its swimming invitational and once again, Michael Houlie proved that he is the Olympic prospect to look out for.
The invitational had the top swimmers from the Universities of Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and Indiana competing against each other, with Michael dominating in nearly every race he swam in.
Currently a student at Tennessee, the 19 year old freshman came first in the 100 breaststroke, with 20 year old Keefer Barnum (Virginia) hot on his heels in second and 20 year old Gary Kostbade (Indiana) in a distant third.
Along with his teammates Matthew Garcia, Braga Verhage and Alec Connolly; Michael helped propel his team to a 200 Medley Relay win and a second place finish in the 400 Medley Relay.
Despite being the youngest in the team, Michael managed to swim the fastest times in both relays.
He however came in second in the 200 breaststroke but he had neither intended to compete nor win in this competition.
His coach, Lance Asti, asked him to do the race to test his endurance by taking it slow in the first 100 and powering ahead in the second.
He performed “incredibly” in the last 50 yards and had he decided to swim at full speed for the entirety of the race, he would have stood a realistic chance of winning.
Coach Asti praised Michael for his technical adjustments that allowed him to finish the 200 race strong and stated that he “has more speed than anyone in that field”.
Michael is however focused on his 100 breaststroke performance in preparation for the US Open that happens in two weeks’ time.
He will be competing in an Olympic size swimming pool for the first time since winning gold at the Africa Championships in August.
The US Open attracts a world class field, comprising US Olympic contenders and elite-level foreigners, many who (like Michael) have training bases in the US.
The proudly South African Michael relishes the opportunity to compete against the best in the world and all of his future competitions up until next year will be focused on preparing for the South African Olympic trials in April 2020.
His coach says that his incredibly fast performance at the Tennessee invitational is a good sign for his prospects to compete on the international stage at the 2020 Olympics.