Margaret Hoelzer is a North Alabama legend being one of the few athletes from the area fortunate enough to compete in the Olympics, and now Hoelzer is getting the chance to cheer on the 256’s latest Olympic talent: former Bob Jones standout Zach Harting.
Hoelzer was a Huntsville High Panther, she went on to swim for Auburn and then took her talents to the 2004 and 2008 Olympics so she knows exactly how difficult it is to make it on Team USA.
“Trials are really intense, so a lot of people will say that trials are actually the fastest meets in the world and it definitely is, it’s definitely that and the Olympics,” Hoelzer said. “The U.S. Olympic team is very deep and when people say it’s the fastest meet in the world what they mean by that is you’ll have people getting third, fourth and fifth at trials that would get third, fourth and fifth at the Olympics.”
“It’s really, really hard to get on the team so there’s a lot of pressure the good news is he’s done that he’s used to that so in some ways the Olympics is a little bit easier,” Hoelzer said. “The flip side is obviously there are other countries that have amazing people as well, but he’s seen that pressure and he’s been in that atmosphere.”
Hoelzer says she was thrilled to have someone from back home to cheer for in the trials and based on what she saw, Harting’s racing style reminds her of one of the sports’ best.
“I love the way he races he races very similar to how I used to race he’s a back halfer,” Hoelzer said. “He wasn’t the first guy at the 50, he wasn’t the first guy at the 100 but it’s really exciting, he’s going to come back on people and honestly that’s how Michael Phelps used to race. Knowing that was his race strategy I was getting so excited like halfway through the race I was like ‘oh he’s gonna go he’s gonna go’ so I love that.”
From one Olympian to another, if Hoelzer could give Harting one piece of advice as he takes on this next challenge it’s a simple answer.
“Have fun and enjoy every moment,” Hoelzer said. “It’s such a special experience and he will remember every little bit for the rest of his life. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in just the competition and the times and the places and yes that’s important but so is the whole experience. I think just really living in the moment and just soaking it all in and enjoying it.”
The 2021 Olympics start on Friday, July 23 and end on Sunday, August 8.