At the young age of five, Holassie joined his first swim team. Encouraged by his mother who took notice of his love for the water since infancy, swimming became a year-round activity that grew into a deep passion. Passion is not always the marker of a successful athletic career, but Holassie’s journey created opportunities to last a lifetime. Switching between being privately coached by his mother and competing as a member of a club swim team, he began finding his niche in the 50 yd., 100 yd., 200 yd,. and 500yd. freestyle as well as the 200 yd. backstroke.
On September 26, 2015 Holassie’s swimming career hit a major roadblock. After a bicycle accident, Holassie broke both of his wrists trying to brace himself for the fall. After more than eight weeks of missing school and swimming due to corrective surgery and recovery, he got back to his first love. “I started training again in January. I was a few months behind speed, but I've been doing it ever since.”
Holassie has been granted the privilege of meeting several Olympic medalists over the years including Trinidadian bronze medalist and former world record holder George Bovell and 2012 London Olympic bronze medalist Alia Atkinson. Holassie met Bovell in 2014 after a tough practice. That meeting evolved into a mentorship involving communication that changed Holassie’s outlook and approach to swimming. “Honestly, if I did not meet him, I wouldn’t be as fast or as disciplined as I am today. I would have remained a coward and shied away from hard work and the pain that comes from it. He helped me understand that to get better, we have to go through the pain.” Using the teachings of his mentor, he began to alter his view of swimming, seeing it as mental obstacle versus a physical one. Bovell assists Holassie with his technique and racing strategies. “He’s one of the most influential people in my life, and I’m grateful that God led me to him.” However, it was a conversation with Atkinson that encouraged him to pursue a spot on a national team. She told him that, “one way to get known for a college and for the Olympics is to get on a national team. That’s what drove me to attempt to make the Trinidad and Tobago national team.”
In 2017, Holassie qualified for the national swim team in Trinidad and Tobago where he also holds citizenship; marking the highlight of his swimming career. He plans to earn a spot on a collegiate team while training to achieve his dream, an Olympic medal. Swimming isn’t just a sport to Richard Holassie, it is a lifestyle.