Batman has taken a break from cleaning up the streets of Gotham City in order to show up on the pool deck here in Omaha, Nebraska for the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials.
While Batman’s alias throughout history has been Bruce Wayne, this week it’s been Louisville swimmer Zach Harting, who hasn’t shied away from revealing his true identity.
Harting made his first appearance on Tuesday morning in the heats of the 200m butterfly qualifying for the semifinals. On Tuesday night, he moved forward to qualify for the championship final.
Wednesday night came and when Harting walked out onto the pool deck he was wearing a Batman onesie, a Batman mask, and donning the full essence of the caped crusader. He threw his arms up as he approached the blocks, egging the crowd on as they cheered.
Over the loud speaker, Harting was introduced as the ‘dark knight’ which drew tons of cheers from the crowd.
“The other night at finals when they called me the dark knight, I heard it was louder than Phelps,” said Harting. “Never had that before. Never really had a cheer that big before.”
Phelps went on to win the event and qualify for his fifth Olympic Games as Harting finished seventh, however the positivity from Harting’s act garnered cheers from all around.
“It kind of started out as a joke,” Harting said. “I’m a huge Batman fan, big into superheroes.”
Although Harting just revealed his true identity to the swimming community this week, it appears as though he’s been dropping hints of his crime-fighting ways as he’s trained for the trials.
Training for Louisville, Harting is driven to push the pace in practice by his excitement to read about the adventures of his alter ego. “I’m just like, ‘alright guys my comic book comes out on Thursday, it’s going to be a good day.'”
Harting’s positivity about the caped crusader allows him to dig a little deeper when the sets get tough, “we’ll do like 10 400 IMs and then I’m like, ‘alright guys were one 400 IM closer to getting my comic book.'”
It’s been a long process for Harting to fully become Batman. He worked his way up from wearing yellow crocs at a junior national meet to just wearing the Batman mask to eventually putting the entire costume on.
“My trainer got my a mask and a towel and it kind of started from there,” Harting said. “My aunt and uncle got me a onesie and I wasn’t planning on wearing my onesie, I was gonna Heely out but the Heelys didn’t work on the pool deck.”
While he didn’t get to roll out onto the pool-deck as plan, there was still a very positive reception to his display.
“Couple people said, ‘such an inspiration to the kids,’ and that was pretty cool,” said Harting. “Couple people were like, ‘can we take pictures with batman,’ I was like, ‘I’m Batman.'”
Regardless of their perception, Harting’s performance will likely be one of the most memorable from this week in Omaha.
“We’re performers at the core, so I put on a show.”