Balancing act: Swimmers Harting and Fink hold full-time jobs while chasing their Olympic dreams

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Zach Harting had a practical reason for getting a job away from the pool.

He was approaching his 26th birthday. He needed health insurance.

“I'm not on my parents' (plan) anymore,” Harting said.

An Olympian at the Tokyo Games, Harting is attempting to make the team for Paris at this week's U.S. swimming trials.

No matter what happens, he's already lined up a pretty solid side hustle as a project engineer for Buffalo Construction in Louisville, Kentucky.

“So 9 to 5, I’m not thinking about swimming,” said Harting, who is attempting to make the Olympics in the butterfly.

He isn't alone at these trials when it comes to balancing two full-time jobs.

Nic Fink, who joined Harting on the 2021 Olympic team and already qualified for the Paris Games in the 100-meter breaststroke, works for Quanta Utility Engineering Services, clocking in remotely from his home in Dallas.

Some major multitasking skills are required, but Fink and those around him — from his coaches at SMU to his engineering colleagues — make it work.

“It’s kind of a group effort in the pool,” said Fink, the reigning world champion in the 100 breast. “And then obviously in work, they know that I’ll get my stuff done, and my hours may be a little different than other people’s. I’ve definitely answered texts like, ‘Hey, can I get this back to you in like an hour or so?’ And they are like, ‘No rush, you do you.’ They let me know when things need to get done by and I work around that schedule."

Fink's life will soon be getting even more hectic. His wife, former Olympic swimmer Melanie Margalis Fink, is expecting the couple's first child in September.

After Nic Fink, who turns 31 next month, qualified for his second Olympics, he made a rocking motion toward his wife in the stands.

For Harting, having a job outside of swimming has provided some much-needed balance in his life.

“It’s something different to think about,” he said. “Through 2022, I was all swimming all the time. I was getting a little burned out on that because I had nothing to do on the outside.”

He works out of the company's office when he's home in Louisville, which provides a welcome respite from all that time he still spends at the pool.

“When 3 o'clock rolls around, I’m not in the pool practicing,” Harting said, joking that “3 o'clock is snack o'clock in the workforce.”

Harting, who graduated from Louisville with a master's degree in engineering management, already has worked on jobs ranging from hotels to gas stations to restaurants.

“I get the construction plans, the blueprints basically,” he said. “Then I'm calling a bunch of different contractors, getting the pricing, then checking and seeing that what they have priced matches what the plans say it needs to be priced. That whole process takes about three weeks, sometimes a month or so.”

While training at Georgia Tech after the Tokyo Olympics, Fink earned a master’s in electrical and computer engineering.

He finds it amusing when people say he has a 9-to-5 job.

“It's actually kind of anything but that,” Fink said. “I have three separate work sessions throughout a day.”

He wakes up early, usually by 6:30 a.m., and tries to get in an hour or two of work before heading to practice. After finishing at the pool, he returns to his engineering job for several hours. On days when he's doing double training sessions, it's back to the pool in the afternoon, then more engineering in the evening. He also has to work around weightlifting sessions and dry-land workouts.

“It’s pretty streamlined in that I eat at my desk and everything,” Fink said. “Flexibility-wise, it’s been great because they kind of expect me to get stuff done, but not at a certain time."

Even at the trials, he's still checking in on his other job.

“I try to get 30 to 40 hours in,” Fink said. “A little less coming into this week but, you know, still trying to do as much as I can because they are doing me a solid."

He is so appreciative to have an employer that understands how much work is needed to pursue his Olympic dreams.

“I can’t thank them enough for giving me that opportunity and something to balance me out,” Fink said. “When it comes to the flexibility they have given me, it’s been better than I could have hoped for and I owe a lot to that.”

Harting is excited to get a head start on his life away from the pool. He hasn't decided if he'll keep swimming after this Olympic cycle, but he's already got a glimpse of what's in store when that phase of his life closes.

“Now that I’m getting older, I can kind of see what there is outside of swimming,” Harting said. "When you retire, it can be a black hole if you don't have anything lined up or haven’t given that any thought. So to have my career semi started, to get the foundation of that ... it's not a black hole.

"I know what else is out there for me.”

___

AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games