UPDATE: Watch party planned to cheer on Zach Harting as he competes in Olympics
UPDATE: Zach finished fourth in the heats Monday morning and will compete in the semi-finals tonight at 8:30 p.m. If successful, he will compete for the gold on Tuesday night.
By John Few and Bob Labbe
MADISON – Former Bob Jones standout swimmer Zach Harting is representing the United States in the Summer Olympics at Tokyo, Japan. Several of his friends, family and fans back home are making sure he knows Madison is cheering him on.
Harting won the 200-meter butterfly event at the U.S. Olympic Trials to earn the trip to Japan. A lot of attention is placed on him as Harting leads the U.S. men’s team into the post-Michael Phelps Olympic era. Phelps signature event was the 200-meter butterfly, and this is the first Olympic games since he retired.
Harting is scheduled to compete in the men’s 200-meter butterfly heats starting at 5:15 a.m. on Monday. The best 16 swimmers out of five heats will advance. If he advances, he will compete in the semifinal which has two heats on Monday, July 26. They start at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen live on NBC (www.nbcolympics.com/schedule/sport/swimming). If he advances from the semi-finals, he will compete in the finals on Tuesday night.
A watch party has been planned for Tuesday, July 27, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Champy’s of Madison, 8020 Madison Blvd, in anticipation of Harting making it to the Olympic finals. The public is invited. The men’s 200-meter butterfly finals are scheduled on NBC for 8:48 p.m. “Come mingle with schoolmates, teachers and swim-mates as we cheer him on!” said Lamarr Stevens, who organized the event.
“It would be great for him to know that back home he has a strong group of supporters rooting him on as he competes in the Olympics,” Stevens said. “It is a proud moment for Madison, and we are very proud of him.”
Harting becomes the first Olympian from this the immediate area since 2008 when Huntsville’s Margaret Hoelzer made the U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
Harting’s dream has always been to wear the colors of the U.S. in the Olympics. He began swimming at age seven at Dublin Memorial Park with the Madison Dolphins and moved to the Huntsville Swim Association as his talents progressed. For Bob Jones, he won two state championships as a junior.
Known as a free-spirit, Harting once wore a Batman costume complete with a cape upon his introduction at a race in Orlando, Fla. He loves to play the guitar and board games for relaxation. One additional little-known fact about the former Patriot- he was a diver for the swim team as a freshman.
Upon graduating from Bob Jones as the state’s No. 1 swim prospect he signed to swim for Louisville after considering other colleges to attend. He earned All-Conference honors and was also named to the All-ACC Academic Team. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and also earned his Masters at Louisville where he currently calls home.
The son of Scott and Lori Harting, the Olympian will turn 24 on Aug. 27.
“I was a dreamer when I was seven years old and I watched all my friends cancel their dreams. I’m here for the dreamers,” added Harting after his U.S. Olympic Trials victory. “Young or old. Make it a goal and make it happen.”
“I’m honored to get to go to Japan to represent my country and the Madison community,” said Harting. “Most athletes like myself want to go to the Olympics, but only a few make it.”