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Zach Harting Turns A Long-Awaited Dream Into Reality By Locking Spot For Tokyo 2020

by Justin Limoges

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.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel led the field in the men’s 100-meter freestyle tonight, completing his semifinal heat in 47.77. 

“I think we had six guys under :48 [in the field], heading into this,” Dressel said. “So, there’s some real talent here – it’s deep, which is great for the sport. But it’s tough to get your hand on the wall first.”

While the veteran finished in first, he was quickly followed up by Zach Apple, one-hundredth of a second later in 47.78. 

Dressel will be fighting to attend his second-consecutive Games, while Apple and most of the field are hungry to qualify for their first in tomorrow night’s final.

Three-time Olympian Nathan Adrian failed out during the finals, finishing 13th in 48.92.

Olympian Hali Flickinger dominated the women’s 200-meter butterfly semifinal, concluding with a time of 2:06.73. Regan Smith followed in second at 2:07.89. 

Matt Fallon, 18, continued off the momentum of his heat-leading preliminary time of 2:10.13 to secure the No. 1 spot in the semifinal in 2:08.91, nearly a second above the rest of the pack.

Fallon made an impressive turnaround in the semis, however, after moving from last to first in the final 100 meters of the race. Nic Fink, 27, followed Fallon in 2:09.13. 

“Honestly, I just wanted to try and keep up with everyone as much as possible,” Fallon said. “I didn’t think I’d actually comeback on them. It was very surreal to see myself first at the finish, because I knew I was last at the 100. I did not realize I was going to be first.”

Fallon hopes to continue his run of form into the final tomorrow evening.

“Just to feel like that again in the last 100, that’s just the goal. Just to put up another swim like that, I would be very happy to replicate something like that.”

Justin Limoges is a 2020 sports communication graduate from Bradley University, originating from Newport, Vermont. He is a digital media assistant for
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