Zach Harting reacts after the Men's 200m butterfly final at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center on June 16, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.
OMAHA, Neb. – Zach Harting made a dream become reality tonight.
Harting, 23, will be traveling to his first-ever Olympic Games following a 1:55.06 finish in the men’s 200-meter butterfly final at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming.
Gunnar Bentz, 25, notably finished closely behind in 1:55.34, earning the chance for him to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as well.
Sleep was little to none for Harting, who knew that his chance for qualifying for the Games was only a moment away. He was restless leading all the way up to the blocks.
“I couldn’t fall asleep last night; I woke up before my alarm,” Harting said. “My heart was just pounding out of my chest – crazy adrenaline. I wanted to puke all through warm-up, still kind of want to do that [now].”
This isn’t the first time he has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team.
Back in 2016, a 17-year-old Harting was pushing for the same qualification in the 200 butterfly but ended up coming up short – finishing in a less-than-satisfying seventh place in the final.
Harting believes that his dream of making it the Olympics is what propelled him to return and make that become reality.
“[Dreaming is] what’s really important to me, especially in ’16 when I missed the team [for the Olympic Games Rio 2016],” Harting said. “That’s why I’m here; I’m here for the dreamers – young or old. If you got a dream, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be following it – make it a goal and make it happen.”
While struggling to fight off the adrenaline and mental distractions leading up to the race proved difficult, Harting focused solely on his capability of winning.
“I don’t think I really handled [preparation leading to the final] well,” Harting said. “I just knew I was going to win and that kind of gave me a little peace, and I just focused on that.”
Harting currently swims for the International Swimming League’s (ISL) DC Trident. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he swam during the inaugural season’s first two events and finished in sixth in the 200 butterfly at the 2019 world championships.
The last year or so of difficulties did not stop Harting from accomplishing a milestone; however, a milestone he’s been dreaming of since he was seven years old.
“I was a dreamer when I was seven, and I watched all my friends and even their parents cancel their dreams because they were told that’s not how it worked,” Harting said. “Not a whole lot of people get to chance to turn their dreams into their goals, which is something entirely different. And then go accomplish those goals that were once their dreams.”
Harting concluded that there was “no word to describe this emotion” and that attending Trials and not winning was not an option for him.
Fortunately for Harting, that 7-year-old’s dream came true.