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Fresh & Hungry: Michael Houlie

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His energy and passion for life and people inevitably rubs off on all who has an encounter with him. He is forever joyful, “proudly” hyperactive, ? but still so deeply grounded and secure in faith and family. He is Michael Houlie, one of SA’s top swimming youths.

To the question “Who are you” he says “I am happy & uncomplicated. I like everyone to be up ….not down. I am always positive (even when things seem bad). The attribute of Encouragement is my natural thing. I believe in people and I love to see others reach their potential. Encouraging others actually gives me a lift as well.”

About his faith he says “I am very fortunate to have a family legacy (Great Grandfather, Grandfather on both sides and my Dad) of Men, who love Jesus and live out their Faith every day”.

His swim journey so far is very inspirational and will be an absolute pleasure to watch for the future.

Athlete: Bio / Stats

Name & Surname           Michael Houlie
Nick Name                         Mike/Mikey/Houlligan
Date of birth                      27/06/2000
Place of birth                    Rondebosch, Cape Town
Current City                      Cape Town
Height                                  1.89m
Weight                                 86kg
Shoe Size                            15
Club                                      AquaSharks Academy
Coach’s Name                  Csanad Feldhausz

Out of Country events/ meets
Egypt (Junior Africa, October 2015)
Italy (Treviso Cup, July 2016)
Angola (u20 Youth Games, December 2016)
Junior Commonwealth Games – Bahamas (July 2017)
Fina Junior World Champs – USA (August 2017)

Secondary Sports           Soccer, Waterpolo (in my past)
Favorite City                     New York City
Favorite Song                  I don’t have a favourite song, my favorite type of music is Jazz
Favorite Movie                 Chef & The hundred-foot Journey
School & Grade                Bishops Diocesan College, Grade 11
I have no Sponsorship. I really love swimming in Arena Products.

Instagram:          @mikehoulie7
FaceBook:          Michael Houlie
Twitter:                @mikehoulie7

Community / church projects involved in
I attend Jubilee Community Church in Observatory (Cape Town), I go to my youth group occasionally but swimming takes up most of my time.
Parents Names, siblings
My Dad: Sam Houlie
My Mom: Colleen Houlie
My Sister: Amy-Joy Houlie


Q: Firstly – congrats you have just been selected to represent our beautiful nation in the US – FINA Junior World Champs and Commonwealth Champs – wow and well done. What is on your heart and mind right now about these opportunities?

I am really ecstatic and honored to represent my country. Selection is never assured, even if you have swum the qualifying times. This is one of 2 possible Junior events in 2017 that I have been working towards and I am so happy that it is official.

Junior Worlds is a “big deal” – the opportunity to swim against the best in the world is what we train for. I can hardly wait.

The fact that it is in the USA is a bonus. The US is the strongest & deepest swimming nation and competing in their backyard is a dream come true for me.  I have family (cousins) who live in the US and it is really cool, because I have not seen them for a few years and they are finally able to watch me swim in person.

Q: You are passionate and doing so well in your Swimming tell me a little bit about how you started in Swimming and your journey in the Swimming arena up to now?

What is not well known, is that I have only been 100% dedicated to Swimming for the last 18 months (since 1 January 2016).  Prior to that, I was juggling swimming with Music studies & other sports, particularly Water Polo.

So I still have loads of room for improvement – I have spent very little time on the technical aspects (starts, turns and under-waters) and I have not even begun to work out with weights or taken my land-based training to a higher level.

In that context, my ascent in junior swimming has been rapid and sudden…..but it has also been fun & interesting (which suits my personality).

So from “nowhere” in 2014, I basically burst onto the National Junior Scene at the 2015 Level 3 Champs in PE (where I broke the then SA Age Group record in the 50m Breast for Boys aged 14, in my very first swim). I also qualified for Senior Nationals with that first swim…..which was very overwhelming at the time. Looking back now…..that swim represented the “breakthrough” and the exact moment when I decided in my heart to give swimming a full go.

[since that first swim in March 2015, I progressed to multiple Golds at the Africa Junior Champion in 2015, WP Champion at Senior Level, SA Nationals finalist, 2 Silver Medals in the Senior Africa Champs in Bloemfontein and 4 Golds at the Africa u20 Youth Games in Angola]

That’s the quick summary …..the full story is longer and a lot more interesting

So here goes …..

My Mum says that I took to water instantly – she took me to “water-safe” sessions before my first birthday (apparently, I just jumped in and could not stop smiling).

By the time I started school, I was very comfortable in the water. Fortunately for me, my Prep school (RBPS) had a very strong swimming team and at age 7, when I started breaking the school and regional Breaststroke records – I had a sense that I could swim fast. This trend continued throughout my prep school years and was the first affirmation of my ability to swim fast breaststroke.

I was a busy kid and around that time (aged 7), my Mum heard that swimming was a good discipline for hyperactive boys – so I joined the Cado squad at the Sports Science in Newlands (with renowned coach, Brian Button). I was not a regular at Cado (at least once a week or twice at most) because of other school sports (rugby, soccer) and my Music commitments (the Violin)

In 2010 (aged 10), Water-Polo entered my life and quickly became my main sport. In a stroke of good fortune, my prep school team was a freakishly talented team of good swimmers that could also play polo really well. For the next 5 years, I basically only trained swimming for Waterpolo, but no more than 2 dedicated sessions a week. I participated in club & league gala’s but I never ever took it seriously.

At 11 years old, a good friend (who was a polo teammate and the best swimmer in our school) joined the Acqua Sharks club in GreenPoint (with my current Coach, Csanad Feldhauz) – at the time 2 of my polo teammates were swimming there and my Dad thought it would be good for me to join a swim group, with my mates.

Even though I was still an infrequent swim trainer – Csanad’s Hungarian training philosophy improved my swimming results almost immediately. It was most apparent in the Medley (up to that point, I was only competitive in Breaststroke …..my other strokes were really weak)

My Water-Polo achievements continued (Western Province Schools A Team) into High School. Surprisingly, my swimming times were good enough to qualify for Level 3, but my parents decided that subjecting me to hectic competition was unwise  – they wanted me to just have fun and to enjoy as many sports as possible. I was completely unaware of this – my parents have since explained it to me and I am thankful that they did it – swimming is my decision and I have always enjoyed it…..I am fresh and still having fun.

In Dec 2014 , I won a gold at WP Champs in the 50m Breaststroke on day 1 (I was more than a year younger than every one and it was the first sign that I was improving rapidly). I only competed on day 1 – I had to rush to a National Water polo tournament straight after that – which really upset my Coach.

At the start of 2015 (my Grade 9 year) – my Coach (Csanad) gave me an ultimatum. He said that if missed Level 3 in 2015, then he would kick me out of squad.

I did not want to be kicked out….so I entered. The Coach was even more upset because 80% of my time was spent in the Waterpolo pool in the first 3 months of 2015. I flew straight from a big polo tournament in Joburg (to PE) and then jumped into the pool the next day for that first swim.

Once I tasted the success of swimming…..I was “hooked”. Winning Golds at the Africa Junior Champs in Cairo (in October 2015) and hearing the National Anthem, while the SA flag was being raised, inspired me…….after that, pushing myself in training was easy. It re-inforced my heart decision to focus on swimming and consequently,  I quit water-polo in December 2015 and I have not looked back since.


Q: What is the highest accolade that you have achieved in Swimming and what is your greatest personal accomplishment?

As you progress in swimming, you are always striving for better and higher.

A lot has happened in a short space of time. Making the Senior SA Team for the Africa Champs and getting 2 Silvers in the 50m and 100m Breast, is my best achievement so far (I had just turned 16 at the time and competing at Senior Level while still a Junior and being in the same team as Cameron van der Burgh & Chad Le Clos, was just incredible for me).

Q: Could you like to share a little bit more about your faith journey and how it has affected your life / sports?

It starts with my family.

I am very fortunate to have a family legacy (Great Grandfather, Grandfather on both sides and my Dad) of Men, who love Jesus and live out their Faith every day. There is no pretending, there is nothing hidden….they are just normal people loving God and wanting to please him, despite their imperfections.

The Women in the family are similar and have also influenced me – but making my way in the world as a young guy, means I relate to my Dad and the men a bit more.

In terms of my Faith……I don’t over-complicate it. For me, it is all about GRACE and the rescue job Jesus did for me on the cross. So it is not about Performance and it is not about strict rules (Religion).

It helps me in my Swimming – which is 100% the Opposite of God’s Grace. Swimming is all about Performance – if you don’t achieve or win then you are nowhere. Swimming can be a brutal sport sometimes.

Because of Jesus and my understanding of Grace – it takes the pressure off, I am able to give 100% ,I go 100% for the Win, I respect my opponents, I have no fear and failure is never fatal. I learn from bad swims…..but I can move on very quickly.

So I am free and I am always happy – which is the best state of mind for big races. I am super-focused for the race……and super-relaxed before & after.

Q: So, you are a brilliant swimmer and academic – but name 1 thing that you suck at 🙂

I suck at a lot of things. I am really bad at sports like Golf and Cricket (I also don’t have the attention span required to do well at these sports)

I suck at anything that requires me to sit down quietly for more than 20 minutes (I like to be active…..I am a doer….I like action…..I like doing things)

Q: Favourite food and who must cook it  ?

My favourite food is Sushi. For a cooked meal, I will go with anything my Mum cooks…….especially her Crumbed Chicken with home-made Vetkoek

Q: You love your football – lessons from footie that you can apply in swimming ?

Yeah….Football and FIFA (on PlayStation) is amazing.

There is so much that swimmers can learn from Football

  • The top Footballers are super talented but they work very hard. Christiano Ronaldo’s teammates all respect his work ethic. If you don’t do the work….it will show up on the pitch and in the big games

  • they have FUN. You have to love your sport to have fun. I enjoy the celebrations when they score a goal …..they are 100% in the moment ….Antone Griezmann’s signature celebration is my personal favorite

  • the big players arrive in the big games. Performing well or even better in the big games is 100% Mental ….Self-Belief is the differentiating factor

  • a Footballer’s career lasts for only a short while (barring injury) – we are taking 10-12 years max. You have to make the most of your peak years…..

  • Good teams can lose games and have bad games. You can’t change the past ….there is always the next game or the next season. The best teams always move and look forward.

  • Famous Footballers have the ability to impact lives and inspire greatness . Italian Legend Alessandro Del Piero once said: “More players need to stop & take pictures with fans, for you its one second, for them its a lifetime”

Q: What is your favourite Bible / Scripture quote?

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future”

Q:  What is your definition of success in life?

To me Success is many things
– it is doing what you love
– it is going 100% after your goals and
– it is learning from your mistakes


Q: What’s your WHY? Why do you do what you do?

My WHY? Is to do the best with what God has given me.

This is a tough question because I am only 16 years old and the future lies ahead of me. I have the potential but I still have to go out and achieve it first.

Right now, I can only influence others in 2 ways

1) Firstly, just being myself (there is a lot about me and my mannerisms on pool deck that make me different to the norm). I am comfortable with that. If my conduct can inspire everyone to be true to themselves – that will make me happy.

2) Secondly….If my peers can see me having Fun and being willing to do the hard work to achieve the success.

I have my unique combination of my background, my physical attributes, my temperament and my opportunities. They are completely different to my parents (who had to overcome enormous obstacles, so that I can have opportunities that exclude millions by virtue of the high cost of entry & participation).

Swimming is a sport that requires money (for coaching, kit, competitions & travelling), access to facilities & time (years of training) – I don’t see it changing soon….but maybe I can do something about that in later years.

I don’t know what the future holds…..nobody knows……at this point it certainly looks like swimming could give me a platform to develop my skills, to meet people, to travel the world and to ultimately influence people.

That’s all a long way away. Right now…..I am grinding hard and building it. There are no shortcuts and I am still very young. I am building the substance and gaining the experience. I am young and it all takes time. I would genuinely love to make 3 consecutive Olympic Games, starting in Toyko 2020 – that means hard work first and talking later.

Q: What are you most grateful for at the moment?

My Family (my Dad, my Mum and my sister Amy-Joy) …..my family are amazing. They love me no matter what and they support me 100% (at great sacrifice). I could not do what I do without them.


Thank you so much for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for your journey ahead. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!

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