The 2008 Summer Olympics mesmerized Zack O’Haver.
He was just 8 years old at the time, but O’Haver watched U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps win eight gold medals in Beijing, China. Ever since, O’Haver decided to dedicate himself to the sport.
“I used to play other sports, but now I’m completed committed to swimming,” O’Haver said.
Now 13, O’Haver typically swims two hours a day, seven days of week.
“I definitely eat a lot,” he said. “I probably eat 2 1/2 times more than most people my age. I burn most of that in the pool anyways. My mom makes pretty good chicken stencil and spaghetti.”
O’Haver will test his skills against some of the best in the world in the North American Challenge Cup, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. The annual swim meet will host the Mexican national team, Pacific Northwest Swimming (Western Washington team), Pacific Swimming (Northern California) and Southern California Swimming.
O’Haver is a member of Pacific Northwest Swim.
“I competed in the North American Challenge Cup last year (in Edmonton, Canada),” he said. “I have done it before, so I’m not necessarily too nervous about it. It’s definitely a big meet, so there is some kind of pressure, but after that first race, it just melts away.”
O’Haver plans to compete in the 100-meter freestyle, 200 free and 400 free this weekend.
His mother, Alisa, is excited to watch her son compete on the grand stage.
“It’s a big deal. It’s an international meet,” she said. “He only gets the opportunity to swim internationally once a year right now. He is representing the Pacific Northwest. I know he is excited about it.”
Prior to her son’s involvement with swimming, Alisa said she didn’t know much about the sport.
“He developed an interest in it, and I didn’t know anything about the sport except from watching it on TV during the Olympics,” she said. “I told him I could get him on a swim team if he wanted to. It was his passion, and I told him I could facilitate that and get him where he wanted to be.”
O’Haver has come a long way in the past five years.
“Swimming for the King Aquatic Club has opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “I thought I was fast when I was younger, but once I moved up to the King (Aquatic Club) a few years ago, I just got so much better.
“It was hard to get up to that level, but once I got there, it just has been great.”