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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sports

‘Faith’ fueled UH alumna Micaela Bouter to Tokyo Olympics


25-year old Micaela Bouter, who was a member of the UH swimming and diving program from 2014-2018, will compete for her home country of South Africa in the 3-meter springboard at the Tokyo Olympics. |Courtesy of UH athletics

25-year old Micaela Bouter, who was a member of the UH swimming and diving program from 2014-2018, will compete for her home country of South Africa in the 3-meter springboard at the Tokyo Olympics. |Courtesy of UH athletics

Micaela Bouter immediately fell to her knees when she officially found out she would be representing her home country of South Africa in the Tokyo Olympics.

After dedicating all her time, energy and effort to the sport of diving since she turned 14, the 25-year old’s Olympic dreams turned into reality.

All Bouter could do after receiving the biggest news of her life was go to the one constant that had powered her through all the obstacles thrown her way, prayer.

“My first reaction was I got on my knees and I honestly just started praying,”said. “That was my first response before I even knew what I was doing.”

Journey to Houston

As a multisport athlete during her childhood, it wasn’t until Bouter was 14 and competing at the diving World Juniors in Tuscon, Arizona that she realized she could potentially be an elite athlete in the sport.

From that point on, Bouter set her focus on earning a scholarship to compete as a collegiate diver in the U.S.

“I saw the campus in (Arizona) and the facilities and (realized) I could get to a place like that if I kept diving and I kept doing well,” Bouter said.

Three years later, that 14-year old girl’s dream came true as Jane Figueiredo, the Houston head diving coach at the time, was taking a sabbatical from coaching in her home country of Zimbabwe when she noticed Bouter while taking in the South African diving nationals.

Figueiredo approached the 17-year old Bouter and offered her a diving scholarship at UH.

Staying the course

As soon as Bouter stepped foot on the UH campus as a freshman she immediately encountered a major roadblock as Figueiredo, who was the reason Bouter was at UH in the first place, left the university and accepted a position of head coach of the British Diving High Performance Center in London.

This left Bouter with a huge decision on whether or not she should stay at UH but ultimately Figueiredo convinced her to stay.

“When (Figueiredo) left she said I think UH is a great school,” Bouter said. “I think you should stay and you should keep competing for them and going to school there, but when you finish your degree you’re welcome to come to London.”

While it was difficult without Figueiredo by her side, Bouter leaned on her faith to help her stay the course.

The decision to stay at UH turned out to be the right decision for Bouter, as she excelled both athletically and academically during her time as a Cougar.

During her time as a Cougar, Bouter excelled both athletically and academically and was recognized numerous times for her achievements. | Courtesy of UH athletics

During her time as a Cougar, Bouter excelled both athletically and academically and was recognized numerous times for her achievements. | Courtesy of UH athletics

In the pool, Bouter racked up accolade after accolade — making multiple appearances on the All-American Athletic Conference Team in diving and winning competition after competition including being the AAC 3-meter diving champion multiple times.

Bouter’s success in the pool carried over to her performance in the classroom as she earned an undergraduate degree in biology and a minor in medicine and society. On top of that, Bouter was recognized for her excellence in the classroom by being named the AAC’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in swimming and diving in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Road to Tokyo

After graduating from UH in the spring of 2018, Bouter took up Figueiredo’s offer and moved to London to train with the British Diving High-Performance team.

It was during her three years in London that Bouter grasped what it would take to make the Olympics and she fully bought in to the process.

“I realized that being an elite athlete is really a lifestyle. I had to basically mold my entire life around performing in training,” Bouter said. “You talk about eating, sleeping and breathing diving, that’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past three years.”

It paid off in 2019, as Bouter placed second in the 3-meter at South African Nationals and later won the African championships.

This secured Bouter an Olympic spot in the 3-meter springboard — at least it was supposed to until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed a full year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All Bouter could do now was to wait and see if FINA, the international federation in charge of administering international competitions in water sports, to confirm South Africa would have two Olympic spots in the 3-meter springboard.

In late June, FINA finally confirmed South Africa’s spots, and just a few days later the country announced more of its Olympic team — and Bouter’s name was on the list.

July 3, the day of the announcement, was the culmination of Bouter countless hours of hard work and all the steps she took to ensure her body was as healthy and in the best shape possible all so she could have a chance to live out her dream of competing in the Olympics, but all Bouter could think about at that moment was how she would not have accomplished this incredible feat if it wasn’t for her faith.

“It’s easy to face defeat and it’s easy to keep persevering if you know that you are not your limit,” Bouter said. “(My faith) has been a big thing in my life (and I’ve) been able to push myself because I know I’m not limited by my own ability. I don’t think I would have kept going if I didn’t have my faith.”

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