Commentary by Andy Ross, Swimming World Contributor.
American fans know him as “the Dark Knight.” Louisville junior Zach Harting didn’t get a chance to sport his full on Batman costume at the World University Games, but he still was a fan favorite to the Taiwanese crowd.
“During warm up I would walk by, and use the little bit of Chinese that I knew and wave at them and say hello, and the whole section just lit up.
Then I noticed it was multiple sections giving me feedback and then I did it during the race and it took off from there.” – Zach Harting
Before each of his races, Harting would play with the crowd by egging them on to cheer. He would start out by thrusting his arms in the air, causing the crowd to cheer. Then he would bring his arms down to signal quiet, then he would raise them again to let them cheer.
He certainly had fun with the crowd. After his last event, the prelims of the 400 medley relay, he spent nearly 10 minutes taking pictures with the crowd, even capping it off with a back-flip into the pool for his warm down.
Harting has been a fan favorite in the United States when he walked out for the 200 fly final at the 2016 Olympic Trials and the 2017 Nationals in a full-on Batman “Dark Knight” costume. But fans didn’t get a chance to see that in Taipei.
“No, that’s only for the 200 fly A-final and I didn’t make that,” Harting said. “Had we gotten that approved through the USA Swimming, it would have made an appearance.”
Harting fully embraced the experience of being in Taipei, trying all the food and getting to know as many people as he could.
“It’s been very friendly; I haven’t met anyone that has been mean, disappointing or sad or anything. Everyone is really happy.”
“It’s been really good, especially with the crowd having my back for every race. It’s a little different. We are not exactly in the States anymore, but we didn’t come here to be in the States. I’ve had a lot of fun here; I’ve made a lot of friends from maybe half the countries here.”
When it comes to food, Harting found the food was certainly different from the traditional Chinese food he is used to in the United States. From lentil soup, to dumplings, and rice with chili, Harting has enjoyed it all.
Harting has used the experience of being around the entire world in the village and being open-minded in terms of trying new foods and talking to new people will help him in international meets in the future.
This wasn’t his first chance representing Team USA, as Harting was on the Junior Worlds team that went to Singapore two years ago. But he is not taking for granted any opportunity he has to represent the stars and stripes.
“I think it’s every young swimmer and every swimmer’s dream to have a cap (with your name on it).
It’s kinda cool to have that ‘I’ve made it’ sort of feeling.”
Harting swam three individual events and two relays in Taipei. He started his competition by getting 27th in the 50 fly at 24.45. In his pet event, the 200 fly, he finished ninth in the semi-finals with a 1:58.04, a little off his 1:56.65 from Nationals in June. He finished his week with a 12th place performance in the 100 fly (53.23) and a gold medal as a part of his role in the prelims of the 400 medley relay.
Even though he didn’t grab any individual medals, Harting still enjoyed his Taipei experience. And the people certainly loved him.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.