Entering his 3rd Olympics, former Badger has sights set in his 1st medal

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 03, 2024

MADISON (NBC 26) — A Badgers track and field legend is heading back to the Olympics and hoping the third time is the charm.

  • 31-year-old decathlete Zach Ziemek took seventh place at the Rio Games in 2016 and sixth place in Tokyo three years ago.
  • Ziemek is just the second Team USA decathlete to qualify for three separate Olympic Games.
  • He's coming off a second-place finish at last month's Team USA Olympic Trials.
  • Ziemek was a four-time All-American at Wisconsin; he graduated from UW in 2016.
  • At 31, Ziemek said he believes he is in the best shape of his life and could compete for a medal in Paris.

"They've always said that (an athlete's prime is) between 28 and 32," Ziemek said. "I didn't really believe that when I was younger but now being here and seeing that I believe that that is absolutely the truth."

Ziemek, who was a four-time All-American at Wisconsin, is just the second Team USA decathlete to qualify for three separate Olympics. He joins Tom Pappas, who competed in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 but did not medal.

Ziemek said he's already thinking about a fourth Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028.

In the meantime, he believes his previous experience should help him later this month in Paris. Particularly in the decathlon, which includes ten different events over the course of two days and, Ziemek said, requires patience.

"I know exactly what I want to do for my stay. What I want to do for my travel. What to expect for the meet itself," he said. "So I shouldn't have any surprises this time."

US Track Trials
Zach Ziemek competes during the decathlon shot put during the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Team Trials Friday, June 21, 2024, in Eugene, OR. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Ziemek has proven he can compete on the world stage. He won a bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon. He said finding the podium at the Olympics would be even more special.

"Going into this I am not a favorite," he said. "Whether I was or not it wouldn't matter. I know what we can do. So I'm just going to try and have the best meet I can and contend for a medal."

Ziemek is originally from Illinois but after attending the University of Wisconsin has made his home in Sun Prairie.

He is one of 13 current or former Badgers athletes to qualify for Paris; that list also includes Neenah native and Team USA rower Maddie Wanamaker.