Olympic History: Tokyo 2020 (x2 bronze)
Year Born: 1996
State Born: WA
Given that he only started getting serious about swimming at the age of 18, it is no surprise that Zac Incerti is making everything happen in a rush.
Growing up in Broome, Western Australia, water was very much an everyday part of life for Zac. But it was not only the pool he gravitated towards but the beach, where he became a nipper. Still, from the age of eight, he was a member of the Broome Barracudas swim club. At the age of 13, he left Broome to board at Aquinas College in Perth and for a while swimming took a back seat. But each holiday he would revive it and when he left school at 18, he was picked up by coach Michael Palfrey and began training with him in Perth.
Within a few short years, he was a member of the Australian Team, the Dolphins, and opened his medal account with a bronze in the 50m backstroke at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
By the time of the Olympic trials in 2021, Zac was flying but he came crashing to earth – momentarily – when he turned around in the 200m freestyle to check his time and discovered the dread letters “DQ” showing against his name. But he had done enough to impress the selectors and when the Team was announced, there was Zac’s name included as a relay swimmer.
Fortunately, the selectors didn’t specify which relay so, based on form they included him not just in the 4x200m freestyle relay but the 4x100m freestyle as well. Save for the Olympic 100m freestyle champion Chalmers, who anchored the quartet in 46.44sec – the fastest in the field - Zac had the next best split (47.55sec) as Australia won the 400m freestyle relay behind the USA and Italy.
Ironically, there was drama before the Australians were able to collect their bronzes for placing third in the 4x200m freestyle final. Under FINA rules, swimmers are not supposed to leave the blocks until their team-mate in the water has touched the wall. But, recognising the difficulty of timing such moves to perfection, FINA has built in a .03sec allowance for swimmers leaving early. And that is precisely the margin that Incerti broke by in the final, .03sec. But the placing stood, much to the delight of Incerti and his team-mates, Alexander Graham, Thomas Neill and Chalmers.
It was, however, a perfect example of the stress that swimmers can find themselves under and, away from the pool, Incerti has a passion for advocating mental health awareness. After struggling through his own anxiety and depression, he is keen to support others suffering from similar problems. Only by raising awareness and facilitating conversations can the stigma attached to mental health be broken down.
The world championships in Budapest in 2022 delivered the first gold medal of Incerti’s career when he acted as a relay alternate as Australia claimed the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay title. He again figured in the pool in Australia’s silver medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team, this time as the fastest swimmers.
The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham a few weeks later were a dream, with Incerti figuring in both men’s freestyle relay triumphs as well as the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay.